Yesterday I attended a district meeting of clergy with my oldest friend David. Usually, I must admit, I don’t much care for such gatherings. This one was better than usual. A couple of reasons come to mind: The clarity with which I began the day. The presence of my friend David (on disability, he usually avoids these meetings). Also, the focus of the meeting was a visit by our Bishop who made himself available for a dialogue with the clergy. The Bishop has authority over all United Methodist Churches (and pastors) in New Jersey. He hasn’t been around all that long. I keep a low profile in the Conference, flying under the radar as much as possible. I got to the meeting a little late (not unsual). By coincidence, the Bishop arrived at the same time, having driven up from central Jersey. Coming out of the bathroom, I passed the Bishop in the hallway as he, too was heading to the bathroom for his pit stop before entering the opening worship, already in progress. The Bishop smiled and called me by name. “Hello Jeff.” It meant a lot to me that the Bishop, who has something like 600 pastors working underneath him and a huge pile of adminisrative duties, knew my name. He is a remarkably gentle man. In the afternoon, at the conclusion of our time together, the bishop and our new district superintendent, anointed and quietly prayed for each one of us. When it was my turn he made mention to God regarding our “inclusive” ministry in Parsippany. Again, with all the churches he has to keep track of, it touched me that he knew something about who we are — what distinguishes our congregation.
I worry about our Bishop. He has a serous back problem and works way too hard. I expect that there aren’t many nights when he gets to be home with his wife.
Later in the parking lot, as David was helping me jumpstart my car (I had left the lights on all day), I smelled a sweet fragrance, and then noticed the sensation of some sort of cream on my hands. I wondered where it had come from, remembering finally the Bishop’s anointing of my head.
In the evening I had another of my new “writing groups.” There are moments of absolute AWE that happen in these groups. People submit short pieces of writing of any style, reading them out loud to the group, and we respond with what the piece makes us wonder about. I am truly amazed at the things that are coming forth. Truly, people are walking around with treasures hidden inside their soul that rarely have opportunity to be expressed. I hope to soon publish selections of these writings on this website.
Loving God, you who always remember my name, this day grant me the clarity of heart and mind by which I may stay on the path — your path. Amen.