By now our clergy here in the Indiana Area should have received invitations to attend "Our Life Together" days in each conference -- on March 30th in North Conference at Warsaw 1st UMC, and on April 13th in South Conference at Bloomington St. Mark's UMC. Perhaps some additional explanation is needed.
Back in the 1980's when I was a fairly young pastor in Indiana, the tradition began of having "Our Life Together" days for our clergy. Those events meant a lot to me, and they helped me to stay connected with my clergy colleagues. The name "Our Life Together" comes from the book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Life Together: A Discussion of Christian Fellowship), and the purpose was to provide a time for the clergy to talk about our covenant life together, to have dialogue with the bishop, and to have some fellowship and fun, too. I am asking that we re-institute those "Our Life Together" times, and I am grateful that the leaders of our clergy Orders in each conference (Elders, Deacons, and Local Pastors) are helping to organize and arrange these days. My hope is that we might have an "Our Life Together" day each spring, with Pastors Convocations (South Conference already has one) in the fall, a Pre-Lenten worship service on Monday and Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday, and other fellowship events as possible (perhaps even including a Retreat together some other time of the year). Simply getting together at Annual Conference, when we are all rushed with business items and other activities, does not seem to meet well our need for clergy to meet and share with their colleagues.
Why all of this emphasis upon "Our Life Together" and other clergy gatherings? As I have visited with our clergy in various settings, I have heard how lonely and isolated some of our clergy feel. I also know that we have lots of issues regarding our connection, our covenant, and our mutual ministry which need to be strengthened. That is why I am inviting our clergy to attend "Our Life Together" this spring. This is not mandatory (like Annual Conference is mandatory for all clergy unless they are explicitly excused by the bishop from attending). "Our Life Together" is voluntary, and it is meant to be fun. I hope that most of our clergy will choose to attend and to share with one another.
Why should laity care about this? Because if your pastor feels supported, connected, and cared for, then your pastor will be better able to minister to your needs and to lead your church.
Sometimes when I type the "United Methodist Church" on my keyboard, I accidentally type "Untied United Methodist Church." I pray that these "Our Life Together" days will help us to stay tied together as United Methodist clergy.
from Bishop Michael J. Coyner