By Betsy Headrick McCrae, Pastor, Glennon Heights Mennonite Church

“Here we are; we’ve been gathered.  And the truth is gathered, too.”  Chuck Neufeld gave us many gifts in the time we spent together at Pastors’ Retreat, November 6-8, at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp.  This assurance, sung repeatedly, building in harmony, wrapping around us, drawing us in, was one of the gifts we received.  It is a gift which we carry with us back to our various communities.  The truth is among us whenever and wherever we gather.

It is a real treat for those of us who are pastors to be able to spend a weekend apart, especially when our spouses and families (if the kids are still young) are included.  We appreciate this time to relax, to have good conversations with colleagues we rarely see and with those who are already good friends, to gather around tables to eat and to play, to rest, if that is what we need, and to enjoy the beauty of the mountains.  But especially – speaking personally here – we appreciate the inspiration, the encouragement, the insight and the blessing we receive as we reflect, listen, share, sing and pray together.

Chuck Neufeld, former pastor in and Conference Minister for the Illinois Mennonite Conference was our resource person this year.  As I said above, Chuck came bearing gifts.  He gave us songs and he told us stories.  Here are a few nuggets:

•    Everyone morning I wake up and say to God, “Assist me to proclaim.”   Then I trust that this will be the case.  God will help me know when and how to speak or to act as the day goes on so that God’s love is proclaimed.
•    Stop doing God’s work!  You can plant the seed you’ve been given.  You can water it.  But then you need to back off and let God do God’s work.  When we try to do God’s work for God, it seldom goes well.  Pay attention to what is your work and what is God’s work.
•    Rehearse for what is to come.  Think through what may happen.  Our telling and retelling of the Jesus story and how it relates to our lives is our way of rehearsing how to become more like Jesus.  When we do this on a regular basis we will be better prepared to respond like Jesus as situations arise.
•    Recognize and affirm when someone is acting like Jesus.  This our goal, after all.  We need to point this out as it happens.
•    Sometimes, just like the frightened disciples in the boat in the storm, we have to wake Jesus up in our lives and allow him to calm the storm.  Part of not being afraid is being constantly aware that Jesus is in the boat with us.

After such a weekend, we come down from the mountain with our faces glowing, or at least with more light in our minds and warmth in our hearts.  Thanks to all of our congregations and to the Conference for supporting this time for us to gather and be blessed.  May we also be a blessing.

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