Last week I went to our annual Bishop's Convocation, a gathering for clergy in the New York West episcopal area. It was the first time I've attended. The Convocation is always the same time as Drew's (my alma mater) annual Tipple-Vosburgh lectures, which I've been in the habit of choosing over the Convocation. Let's face it - Drew can usually pull in 'bigger' speakers, I get to see friends that I don't often see otherwise, and going to New Jersey for away time is more exciting than going an hour and a half away to Rochester. But...that said, I decided very last minute to attend the Convocation instead of Tipple. I'd just come back from GBCS in DC, and didn't feel like traveling very far. Plus, I guess I think it is important to invest myself here in my hometown area more than I have been. It's been three and a half years now since I graduated from seminary. I loved it, and I loved the people. But I love here too, and need to be more intentional about forming relationships here. Anyway, the convocation...
The theme was Deepening the Well and was focused on issues of clergy wellness and renewal. I did indeed find the time apart to be relaxing and renewing. I enjoyed the speakers and preachers, and just spending time with my colleagues. I don't know how other pastors in the conference feel, but I feel that in general we have a strong sense of collegiality in NCNY. It is one of the reasons I came home to this conference after seminary.
One of the preachers was Rev. Margaret Scott. She did a monologue-as-sermon, as Peter's wife. She said, "Where the presence of Jesus is felt, people show up." True words! She reminded us that Jesus was "not immediately accessible," focusing on a passage (where? I forget and am too lazy to look it up) where we read that the disciples and crowds are hunting for Jesus. She challenged us about our sense as pastors that we must be always immediately accessible. And, a good line that got a good laugh: "If there's one thing men hate, it's logic in the midst of panic."
One of our speakers was Kwasi Kena, who is Director of Evangelism Ministries for the General Board of Discipleship. He talked about knowing the difference between "what is urgent and what is important." He gave us a journaling prompt for 'spiritual writing' saying that when you write, you're supposed to "write what you know" - the usual motto anyway, but in spiritual writing, you're supposed to "write what you don't know." He urged us to "create a stop doing list." I liked that suggestion! He also talked about visions, and our tendency to "come up with" visions for churches, conferences, committees. He told us this is going about things the wrong way. "The vision is sent by God," he said, "it isn't just conjured up because we want to write something down on paper."
Rev. Marilyn Wolfe was another preacher, who gave a very moving sermon. She talked about loving the marriage blessing that is in our United Methodist Book of Worship that has the line: "So that those to whom love is a stranger will find in you generous friends" and challenged us and encouraged us, reminding us: "We are Jesus" to some people. We are the only experience of Jesus they may ever have had. So our hope is to be to others, to those to whom love is a stranger, a good representation of the love of Jesus.
Of course, my uncle, Bill Mudge, was also one of the preachers, and I heard great things about his sermon, but I managed too arrive too late for that one. Alas!