A “Clergy Day Apart” is not a time when ministers step away to take a break from their pastoral presence. Rather, it's when they gather for some intensive faith work or ministerial education with other preachers.
“I try to take advantage of them whenever I can. They're usually well worth the time and the day,” said the Rev. Mary Sullivan, who is the minister at three Toledo United Methodist churches—St. Paul's, Collingwood, and Central.
United Methodist ministers from 108 northwest Ohio churches in the Maumee Watershed District held a clergy day apart Feb. 19 at Unity Church—a United Methodist Community in Northwood, There, they heard the Rev. Eric Law, an Episcopal priest who is the founder and executive director of the Kaleidoscope Institute in Los Angeles.
“The Kaleidoscope Institute focuses on leadership development, and our goal is to empower leaders to create missional churches and sustainable community,” the Rev. Law said. “Not only are we looking at churches that relate to the community; we want the community within the church, where the church resides, to become sustainable so that the church will be sustainable. So it all flows together.”
The Rev. Law is leading workshops around the country on missional churches and sustainable communities, the topic of his 2013 book Holy Currencies: 6 Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries.
All the attendees received a copy, and Pastor Sullivan said reading it was one reason she chose to attend. Her mother, also a pastor who heard the Rev.Law, highly recommended him.
The Rev. Michael Raypholtz, pastor at United Methodist churches in Pioneer and West Unity, said, “It's good to be with my colleagues. It is kind of restoring to go to put something new in your mind with friends.”
Currencies-- think of exchanging something, as in money is a form of currency-- is Mr. Law's metaphor for the important elements in his “cycle of blessings” that make up sustainable missional ministry.
In the beginning of the book, he writes that “A missional church is a community of people who look outward and are able to connect with others who are not already members of any church organization.” Those connections form relationships, which bring more members into the church. “We're only poor when we don't have relationships,” Mr. Law said at the workshop.
In some circles of ministry, “missional” is the latest buzzword.
“I'm riding the wave [of 'missional'] a little bit,” Mr. Law said, “but my frustration with any kind of wave is that it recedes and becomes the latest fad and will be defeated. If you look at my work, I always take it to the next step so that most of my work has real longevity because you continue to have application.
"My first book, The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb, which deals with multicultural ministry leadership in the multicultural community, is 21 years old, just turned legal, and is still being read because I didn't just talk about multicultural ministry as a concept; I showed people how it's done. Same thing here.”
The holy currencies are six elements—relationship, truth, wellness, gracious leadership, time and place, and money—that make up a blessed economy that enables a sustainable missional ministry. The challenge in churches, Mr. Law said he noticed, is that the people who focus on sustainability “do not want to talk missional,” so he uses activities and illustrations to show that by giving resources away and sharing, more resources come to you—which is a missional goal. “God's blessings are then recycled to create more blessings,” he said.
Mr. Law's workshops usually last two-and-a-half to three days, he said, so with the clergy day apart lasting only five hours, including lunch, the ministers have more to learn from Mr. Law's book.
“It was really pounded into me in seminary to be a lifelong learner,” Pastor Raypholtz said, “and I don't think I really appreciated how much I was going to learn after I was ordained. I've learned so much more than I ever learned in seminary or college on my own and through things like this.”
The next clergy day apart, April 30, features Bishop Gregory Palmer, who leads the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, which includes the Maumee Watershed District.