A few weeks ago you all afforded me some time for a 6-day study leave. The conference I attended was called CREDO and was located at the Wooded Glen Conference Center in woods of Southern Indiana. This conference was sponsored by the Presbyterian Board of Pensions and was designed for mid-career pastors. Those in attendance either applied for acceptance or were invited by the board. The 31 pastors present each seemed to be at similar stages of their pastoral careers. The week away had daily worship, guided study and it was emphasized that we each take the week to: listen, pray, discern and grow. The guided studies addressed the needs of pastors to sustain healthy ministries in the areas of: personal health and well-being, spirituality, finance and vocation. Each section then led to a self evaluation and sought to develop a, “Rule of Life.” A rule of life in this context was described to those in attendance as, “the thread that tethers us to the longings of our heart and soul.” What I discovered about myself did not so much surprise me but rather confirmed the vocational call as a pastor that God placed on my life so many years ago. To come to these self revelations, the conference leaders took several approaches in the areas of physical and spiritual health, self refection in quiet and group settings, and discernment of vocational call. Some methods worked well for me, others I found myself disconnected. The one area that did benefit me was a linear voting exercise that forced me to rank personal core values. In this exercise I ranked my core values in the following top five order:
- Christ Lead
There are five additional core values I identified as important but finding Christ at the top of the list has helped me affirm the work that God has called me to.
I have been affirmed in the knowledge that I am a pastor and St. Luke Union is Christ’s church that I have been called to serve. My passion for the work of the church is steadfast in my heart and the people I have been called to serve are the children of God in whom I love.
One of the best features of this conference was that we worshipped in the morning and again in the evening, and in each of those times of worship no attending pastor was asked to lead. When there, we simply worshipped. This was the opening prayer of the first worship time:
Holy God, be in my mind that I might let go of all that diminishes the movement of Your Spirit within me.
Discerning God, be in my eyes, that I might see You in the midst of all the busyness that fills my life.
Loving God, be in my heart, that I can be open to those I love to those with whom I share ministry and to the whole human family.
Gracious God, be in that grace-filled silence that lies deep within me, that I might live in Christ as Christ lives in me. Amen.
by: Rev. Canon James C. Fenhagen