So I invite all of us to pray for those pastors and families who are moving, pray for those churches who are losing well-loved pastors (even if for good reasons like retirement), and pray for hospitality and grace to prevail in every one of these moves.
This is the time of year when several dozen clergy and families are moving to new locations in Indiana to start their ministry with a new appointment (most appointments begin July 1, but the moving dates vary). Such moves are always tough. No one really likes to move. The physical demands of packing, sorting, and then unpacking are tiring. Along with that comes the anxiety: Will my new congregation welcome me and my family? How will we find new doctors, dentists, car mechanics, etc.? Will my kids be happy in the schools? Will my new parishioners still cling to their former pastor, or will they give me a chance to be their pastor?
Such moves are not easy. My wife and I have moved 13 times during our married life and ministry, and I don't think any of our moves have been easy or stress-free. So I invite all of us to pray for those pastors and families who are moving, pray for those churches who are losing well-loved pastors (even if for good reasons like retirement), and pray for hospitality and grace to prevail in every one of these moves.
The Bible is full of stories of individuals and the people of God moving to new lands through what was a "wilderness experience." Sometimes moving can feel like a wilderness experience. It helps to know that the Bible also gives witness to the presence and power of God leading God's people through those times.
As we look forward to this coming Conference year, it is clear that our Indiana Conference will be going through a move and a transition – including the transition to a new bishop as of September 1, 2016. Given that reality and the reality that all of us – laity and clergy alike – are going through life transitions, the Our Life Together Team which is planning the OLT Clergy Retreat scheduled for February 22-23, 2016, has determined the theme will be "The Wilderness Experience: Equipped for, Thriving through, and Living Beyond." They have asked me to be the keynote speaker – with the first day's presentation on "ministry transitions" and the second day's presentation on "personal transitions." Those presentations will include Q and A times to "ask the bishop whatever you want to ask." There will also be several other workshop leaders and break-out experiences.
A new development: the OLT Team will also be selecting three of our Indiana clergy to preach at the opening service on Monday, the Tuesday morning service, and the Tuesday afternoon closing service. And they invite the clergy of our Indiana Conference to help select those three preachers. Here is a link the survey where you are asked to suggest the names of your clergy colleagues you want to hear at OLT next February.
While we are talking about future dates, our Indiana Conference clergy should also hold onto the date of November 11, 2015, for our annual "Clergy Covenant Day" – and this year's theme will be "Can We Talk?" It will include time to have guided conversations about the tough issues facing our United Methodist Church and our clergy in particular. More information will be coming to our clergy about these events, but please hold those dates on your calendars.
Here is another future date, just for the laity of the Indiana Conference: At the request of our Conference Lay Leader, Doris Clark, and the Board of Laity, I have agreed to schedule a "Laity Day with the Bishop – A Call to Fruitfulness," to be held on Saturday, October 17, at Castleton UMC. More information can be found at www.inumc.org/laityday.
All of us need support, care, and encouragement as we live through the Wilderness of transitions – so let's pray for one another and let's gather for these events to help each other find God's guidance through the Wilderness.