This week is one of our three big events as clergy and lay leaders of the Alaska United Methodist Conference converge on Anchorage for our Winter Rendezvous. We also have a Fall Rendezvous in October and Annual Conference in early June. Why is it important for our conference to pay travel expenses three times a year for these gatherings? Let me share a story.
A reader once wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper commenting on how he had sat in church and listened to thousands of sermons in his lifetime. He was questioning their value because he could not remember them. Responding to this letter another reader wrote a response that went something like this. "My wife is a great cook. I have enjoyed thousands of her meals over the years. But I can't tell you what I ate on February 23, 1978 or many other dates. But I can tell you that without them I would not have enjoyed the life I have lived. Those meals fed and nurtured my body and soul. In the same way so have all the sermons I have heard from caring pastors over the years. I can say that without them my soul would not have enjoyed the abundant life God has blessed me with."
Our conference gatherings are food for our connectional souls. We United Methodists are a connectional people. While others in the lower 48 may be tempted to take this for granted we in Alaska understand that it is our lifeblood. Tomorrow begins our retreat for pastors and lay professionals under appointment. We will sing and pray and listen to our bishop and resource teacher. It will be important for the health of our souls to gather for spiritual and community formation. We may not remember the details of this gathering down the road but we will cherish the times as we recall how important this feeding has been for our souls.
I invite us all to pray for travel mercies and for the spiritual and connectional hearts of our pastors and lay leaders as we gather this week. God will feed us and we will return to our parishes renewed and refreshed to continue our ministries in the name of Jesus Christ.