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It sounds so obvious and necessary, but so difficult to achieve.
The need to spend regular time in contemplation, reflection, rest and communing with God amid busy schedules was underscored repeatedly at the annual School for Leadership Training held Jan. 16-19 at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
Some 250 pastors, lay leaders and seminary students attended corporate sessions and classes around the theme, "Embodying God's Wholeness in a Frenzied World," based on texts from the gospel of John.
In three messages, principal speaker Duane Beck, pastor of the Raleigh (N.C.) Mennonite Church, reflected on differences between "being busy and being fruitful" in pastoral ministry.
Beck, former lead pastor of the Belmont Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Ind., for 21 years, opened each session with corporate "stretching exercises" aimed at helping participants reach toward and bless God, Jesus and Holy Spirit and bring fresh awareness of their empowering presence.
"What do we do when things become frantic in our lives"" Beck asked. "Those things that can help us change for the better - quiet reflection, contemplation and communion with God - fall by the wayside."
The speaker stressed the need for persons to undergo "pruning processes" in order to become more productive and fruitful, noting that "the more we deal with the unredeemed areas of our lives the more we can experience God's healing and grace in our lives."
Beck quoted author Leslie Newbigin: "The minister's leadership of the congregation in its mission to the world will be first and foremost in the area of his or her own discipleship, in that life of prayer and daily consecration . . . is the place where the essential battles are either won or lost."
"Pay attention to [what's happening] in your daily lives," he advised. "Let your bodies catch up with your souls in order to embody God."
"Our inner lives need to dwell where Jesus dwells. Staying near God's heart shapes and transforms us as ministers," Beck said, adding: "Go back to your baptismal call and receive it anew. Know that God loves you and reflect on the awareness that 'you are My beloved child.'"
Beck recommended developing a personal call and mission statement to provide a framework for practicing regular spiritual disciplines that include meditation on scripture, prayer and a regular period of retreat and acquiring a spiritual director/mentor.
Finding a balance between ministry and relationships was echoed in a class on "Finding a Wholeness Balance" led by Lonnie D. Yoder, professor of pastoral care and counseling at the seminary.
"Discern your passions, what you feel God is calling you to. Having a written life purpose statement is one key to this process," Dr Yoder said.
Knowing how and when to say 'yes' and 'no' to requests and demands is critical, but having clear priorities for ministry will provide a clue in responding, Yoder told the class.
The opening corporate session Monday night, Jan. 16, combined worship with a celebration of the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led by Cheryl Sanders, senior pastor of the Third Street Church of God in Washington, D.C. (see sidebar).
At a "Pre-SLT" seminar held Monday afternoon, Jan. 16, Ingrid Friesen Moser, stewardship of health manager at Mennonite Mutual Aid, Goshen, Ind., helped persons take a second look at understanding attitudes toward "glorifying God with our bodies," including changing the ways one shops, talks and walks.
Participants were able to select four of 16 special interest classes during the week on topics ranging from "young adults' views of the church" and "the peace position in time of war" to "sermon preparation" and "creating a healthy rhythm with food."
Tuesday evening, Jan. 17, persons could select recreational activities from country-western line dancing to climbing a wall in the University Commons to a Rook card tournament.
Judy Zook, pastor of New Holland (Pa.) Mennonite Church, affirmed the conference emphasis on "abiding in Jesus," noting that "ministry flows from establishing boundaries of quiet space with God that empower us to live in a frenzied world with the peace and joy of God's holy presence in our lives."
"I was renewed and energized to continue being an ambassador of the gospel of Christ by the profound reminder that in my baptism, God's Spirit came upon me and I was named God's beloved," said Sam Thomas, pastor of Landisville (Pa.) Mennonite Church. "Renewed in God's love for me, I've been renewed to embody that love to others."
Audio and video tapes of keynote sessions and opening worship are available by contacting EMU learning resources, 540-432-4231; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.