‘Abide in Me’ participants prepared to embrace new disciplines toward greater spiritual health
St. Pete Beach, Florida – Travelers, not unexpectedly, arrived with baggage.
As pastors and church leaders regularly navigate the daily landscape of life and ministry under tremendous pressure and stress, they may have found themselves carrying more than their usual share to the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s annual Disciple-Making Church Conference that began on January 16.
“We all come to this place with baggage—our spiritual, mental, and emotional baggage —that a lot of us brought into this room with us tonight,” said the Rev. Jeff Eddings, co-founder of the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, Pittsburgh, in opening the gathering.Abide in Me… A Spiritual Purging, based on John 15:4, was designed to introduce participants to a variety of spiritual practices to help them to live fuller mental and spiritual lives in order to bear more fruit for Jesus Christ and Christ’s church.
“We’re fond of living in regret or guilt of the past, in fear of the future, or anxious in the moment that is right now,” continued Eddings. “We have an opportunity—this is a gift—to step outside of our regular routines and be here in communion with each other. I want to invite you to that, to surrender, let go of whatever worries you have, whatever anxiety you’re feeling right now in this moment, and surrender ourselves right now to be embraced by God.”
Eddings, conference’s keynote speaker, was joined in leadership January 16–19 by the Rev. Sharon Stewart, part-time pastor at the Homestead (Pa.) United Presbyterian Church and part-time pastoral associate for Southminster Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Ray Jones, associate director of Evangelism, Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA); and the Rev. Steve Ebling, pastor, New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fishers, Ind.. The Revs. Aaron and Ayana Teter, who serve, respectively, as pastor of the United Presbyterian Church, Ingram, Pa., and associate minister of Pittsburgh Presbytery, were the conference’s music leaders.
As evening worship began, some 50 conference participants gathered around tables were invited to share in small groups their “consolations and desolations,” a concept from Ignatian spirituality that roughly correlates to joys and concerns.
“I am thankful to come here for a break, but also have it be a formative time,” said Jane Larson, a third-year student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In addition to her workload as a full-time seminarian, Larson is part of a church plant. The Disciple-Making Church Conference ran concurrently with the 2017 coaching training for the PMA’s 1001 New Worshiping Communities initiative, a churchwide movement launched by the 220th General Assembly (2012) to begin 1,001 worshiping communities over the next 10 years.
Prior to the evening’s sermon based on Mark 10:42-46—an interactive exercise led by Stewart and Ebling—Eddings paused in prayer to honor the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and “all that this day is meant to be and to remind us of.”
“And as we come to the Inauguration this Friday, the nation is a place of uncertainty,” Eddings said, “The recent exchange between President-elect Trump and Congressman John Lewis has highlighted this uncertainty, especially for those who wonder whether America is still a safe and welcoming place for them. It’s our job as a church—no matter what our position may be—to rise up and say, ‘Yes, we are a safe and a welcoming place for you. We will continue to work on your behalf for justice.’”
Emily Enders Odom, mission communications strategist
Today’s Focus: 2017 Conference – Abide in Me… A Spiritual Purging
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Mission Co-workers:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Look with compassion, O God, upon those who feel themselves beyond the reach of your love or outside your limitless mercy. May we follow Christ and show his love toward those whom the world despises and rejects. Amen.