We have just completed the “Our Life Together” two-day retreat for the clergy of The United Methodist Church of the Indiana Area. We had a larger crowd than anticipated, and the last number I heard was 560+. I suppose eventually we will have an exact count, but it was clearly a large number. When I asked for a show of hands of those from North Conference and South Conference, it appeared to me that it was just about a 50/50 split. We had Elders, Deacons, Local Pastors, retired clergy, active clergy, and several clergy serving in Extension Ministry. The worship was beautiful and inspiring, Dr. Greg Jones was passionate and challenging, the music was varied and well done with everything from Taize to pipe organ to clergy choir to praise bands, the workshops were well-attended and helpful, and the small groups apparently had powerful sharing. We managed the large crowds at meal time, and many enjoyed the “At Your Leisure” fun and food at the Luke’s Lodge (youth building). St. Luke’s UMC hosted us well, their staff was so hospitable, and the Our Life Together planning team did a great job. We even had a large assortment of vendors sharing their products and services.
Most telling to me were the many, many comments from clergy who said to me, “This was just what I needed.” The opening worship service was a good example. It was a baptism renewal, and it took much longer than we expected because the clergy came forward and spent quality time receiving a shell, dipping it in the water which had come from distant corners of the state, and were obviously moved and even tear-filled over this opportunity to recommit themselves to Christ and to their own ministry. Several pastors told me that the length of that renewal time – and watching their sister and brother clergy make their own renewals – was a welcome respite after a busy Lent and Easter. No one seemed to mind the wait, because so many little “dramas” of renewal were happening. Another very moving time occurred when we were led into prayer circles where we prayed for the person in front of us, to our left, behind us, to our right, and then for ourselves.
The retreat also included lots of good conversation times, and I witnessed so many little groupings of clergy sharing with each other in a nice mixture of North and South clergy, men and women, older and younger, and even theological variety. Our clergy really seemed to enjoy being together, worshipping together, praying together, laughing together, eating together, and learning together. Perhaps that is why so many clergy said to me, “This was just what I needed.” Most also added, “Let’s do it again next year” and some even asked, “Can we do this three times a year?”
Something happened at Our Life Together. Community happened. Renewal happened.
I can honestly say for myself, “It was just what I needed, too.”
from Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church