This morning I drove down to Stillwater Lodge at Glen Lake Camp and Retreat Center. We begin a three-day Cabinet Inventory Retreat. Our first activity is worship and prayer. With our foundation and focus built on God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we together as a Cabinet including the three new incoming district superintendents, will spend some time thoughtfully reviewing the list of retiring clergy and incoming potential new clergy. Today we have the largest retirement class in recent memory. We have already received 19 letters of retirement. Sunday we learned the sad news of the death of a colleague, Pastor Duane Chambers (Lay Supply at Italy-Dresden), and we have a second retirement from 1 pastor (who obviously failed retirement the first time). This makes something like 21 openings. (In Cabinet language we call those “clean openings” because there is no one currently down to hold that appointive position come Annual Conference.) Additionally, if history holds to its regular pattern, we should receive a couple of more retirements before Annual Conference.
Kathy Ezell, Associate Director for the Board of Ordain Ministry, reports seventeen incoming clergy (new seminary graduates, etc.) which includes three deacons who are up for commissioning. We have not yet received the final list for those who are coming via the Local Pastors’ track.
We will also review the number of fulltime openings for appointment as well as situations where a church/charge will be moving to a less than full time appointment. We will do so, carefully working through each district and category on the following list (in alphabetical order):
- Central District
- East District
- New Church Starts District
- North District
- South District
- West District
- The Center for Evangelism & Church Growth
- The Center for Leadership (Campus Ministry)
- The Center for Mission Support
In each case we will pause for prayer and a deeper assessment of needs, hopes and dreams.
I write to ask you the reader to be in prayer for the Central Texas Conference Cabinet while we are on our Inventory Retreat. Recently two beautiful prayers have come to my attention. My wife Jolynn passed on a prayer from Columba, the great Christian Saint and missionary who brought the Christian faith to Scotland by way of founding Iona Abbey. It reads as follows:
Be a bright flame before me, O God
a guiding star above me.
Be a smooth path below me,
a kindly shepherd behind me
today, tonight, and for ever.
Alone with none but you, my God
I journey on my way;
what need I fear when you are near,
O Lord of night and day?
More secure am I within your hand
than if a multitude did round me stand.
Amen. (Saint Columba, Iona Abbey)
The second is a prayer that I ran across in my daily devotional reading. Dr. Sid Spain, my spiritual director and companion in the faith, and I have been working through A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God by Norman Shawchuck and Ruben Job, (known by many as simply “The Green Book”). I have added the plural to the tradition phrasing of the prayer by Norman Shawchurck:
Defend me [us] from all temptation, that I [we] may ever accept the right and refuse the wrong.
Defend me [us] from myself, that in your care my [our] weakness may not bring me [us] to shame.
May my [our] lower nature never seize the upper hand.
Defend me [us] from all that would seduce me [us], that in your power no tempting voice may cause me to listen, no tempting sight fascinate my [our] eyes.
Defend me [us] against the chances and changes of this life, not that I [we] may escape them but that I [we] may meet them with firm resolve;
not that I [we] may be saved from them but that I [we] may come unscathed through them.
Defend me [us] from discouragement in difficulty and from despair in failure, from pride in success, and from forgetting you in the day of prosperity.
Help me [us] to remember that there is no time when you will fail me [us] and no moment when I [we] do not need you.
Grant me [us] this desire:
that guided by your light and defended by your grace,
I [we] may come in safety and bring honor to my [our] journey’s end by the defending work of Jesus Christ my [our] Lord.
May it always be so!
(Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God by Norman Shawchuck and Ruben Job; pp. 104-105)
May we pray together?