At Maria Stein Spiritual Retreat Center, 50 United Methodists are gathered together for spiritual and practical training on their journey to become licensed local pastors for the West Ohio Conference.
Today more than one-third of United Methodist churches across the denomination are served by local pastors and associate members, and that number is growing. The local pastor performs all the duties of a pastor but is authorized to do so only at his or her particular congregation, while the elder may perform the functions of a pastor anywhere.
This year's licensing school is a 5-day intensive study provided by the West Ohio Conference. Rev. Wade Giffin, Director of the Office of Ministry, and Rev. Amy Aspey, Director of Clergy Professional Development, have organized a week of study, teaching, worship, fellowship and spiritual retreat designed to mesh the practical aspects of pastoring with the spiritual practices necessary to be successful in fulfilling the call to pastoral ministry.
Sunday evening, July 13, the week began with dinner followed by the first of many learning opportunities the students would experience during the week from expert speakers. This one, led by West Ohio Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, was entitled "The Spiritual Life of the Spiritual Leader" during which Bishop Palmer used his experiences as a pastor and knowledge as a theologian to urge the intentional embrace of the peace of Christ in daily life and to keep nothing between one's soul and one's Savior.
Throughout his talk, Bishop Palmer engaged the students in learning and using the resources available to them as a pastor, in particular the United Methodist Hymnal which is full of beautiful and poetic hymns written by authors engaged in deep Christian reflection, as well as containing orders of worship, rites, litanies, prayers and liturgical verses. Prior to arriving the students were assigned to read Roberta C. Bondi's book, A Place to Pray: Reflections on the Lord's Prayer. He encouraged the students to always remember their baptism and engage in practices, both personal and community, which allow the peace of Christ to keep watch over their heart. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster was lifted up as an excellent resource for learning the central Christian practices for a richer spiritual life.
Following the teaching, Bishop Palmer led the participants in worship and communion, preaching on the Book of Samuel and admonishing pastors to remember that "whenever the ministry becomes about us, expect that the word of the Lord will be rare" but to take heart that "on the day you were baptised , God started a good work and God is going to see you to completion."
Prayer and messages of encouragement are invited as these United Methodists surround themselves in spiritual fellowship and engage in conversations about Worship, Sacraments, Leadership, Vision, Discipleship, Preaching, Stewardship, Mission and other topics.
You can follow the class on Twitter at #LPLS2014 and view a photo gallery on the West Ohio Facebook page.