Last Tuesday we had a wonderful Clergy Covenant Day where nearly 600 of our clergy gathered for a day of prayer, worship, sharing Holy Communion, reflection and updates about opportunities for the clergy of our Indiana Conference. During the day the Chairs of our Clergy Orders (Tim Burchill – Elders, Jennifer Pollard – Deacons, and Dawn Cuthbert – Local Pastors) presented and our clergy joined in affirming a new Clergy Covenant. It reads as follows:
"Ministry is a life-long journey of putting God's purpose ahead of our preference. At no time is that more true than as maintenance-minded congregations work through the difficult process of becoming missional, Kingdom-oriented communities. Therefore, in Our Life Together as Indiana United Methodist clergy, we covenant to move:
  • from Career to Calling,
  • from Competition to Collaboration,
  • from Self-entitlement to Service,
  • from Running each other Down to Building each other Up,
  • from Gossip to Gratitude for faithful ministry,
  • from Isolation to Mutual Support and Accountability,
  • Affirming those who Come Before Us while Supporting those who Follow Behind.
”We do this not for our sake, but for the sake of the Call, and in order to build up the Body of Christ wherever and however we are privileged to serve."
All of our clergy stood and read together that Clergy Covenant during the day. Even more poignant was the Clergy Prayer which was attached to that Covenant on little fold-over business cards for us to carry in our wallets and purses. That prayer is worth sharing over and over again:
"Gracious God, I ask for more of You
even though it means less of me.
But I ask on behalf of them:
            those who need me,
            those who love me,
            those You have called me to serve in Jesus' Name. Amen"
Additionally we invited the clergy to submit prayer request cards, which we prayed over, and which I now have on my desk to pray for daily. I think you should know what your pastors are praying for and requesting prayers for:
 Most included prayer requests for their families – everything from spouses who are ill, to a family member who was raped, to a family member in prison, to children who are having a hard time adjusting to the move to a new appointment. Our clergy care deeply about their families, and they know the wear and tear that ministry places upon our families. I hope everyone will join me in praying for the families of our clergy, even if you don't know the specific circumstances.
  • Many asked for prayers for their congregations – especially asking that God will open their hearts to become less self-centered and more outwardly-focused. I am really touched as I read those prayers because they represent the real struggles of pastors to lead their congregations. I ask you to join me in praying that our clergy leaders will have receptive laity to join them in leading their churches forward.
  • Many asked for prayers for themselves, somewhat reluctantly. Our clergy are dealing with all kinds of issues – illness, surgery, depression, discouragement, impatience, etc. Those prayer cards reminded me that clergy are human, too, and need our prayers.
  • Many also asked for prayers for our UMC, for our denomination to be faithful and united, along with prayers for our Council of Bishops (we as a Council have just issued a statement asking for prayers, so that probably prompted some of those requests).
 Our day closed with a prayer time and anointing session where retired clergy prayed for and anointed with oil those who came forward for prayer.
I share all of this so that you who are reading this E-pistle know how much our clergy pray and need prayers. The Spirit was clearly moving last Tuesday, and I am encouraged by the prayerful responses. May it continue to be so.