Bishop Violet L. Fisher
Bishop Violet L. Fisher John Coleman photo

Praying truth to power—a Lenten day apart for clergy

By John W. Coleman

“Speaking truth to power,” a phrase coined by Quakers in the 1950s, is one aim of social protest. But it could have a higher meaning for many clergy in the Eastern PA Conference, when they gather for “A Day Apart” on Tuesday, Feb. 28, just before the season of Lent, to speak humble truths to the divine source of their power.

While millions of rambunctious revelers around the world will join in Mardi Gras, Carnival or similar celebrations on Fat Tuesday, elders, deacons and local pastors across our six districts will join in more spiritual celebrations focused on soul-centering, heart-lifting, mind-strengthening prayer.

SOUTHEAST DISTRICT

The Southeast District Lenten Day Apart will celebrate “The Power of Prayer” on Tuesday morning, led by keynote presenter Bishop Violet L. Fisher, at the Malvern Retreat House (315 S. Warren Ave., Malvern). Bishop Fisher will return to her “home” conference to lead the district’s clergy on their Lenten Day Apart.

“Truly a woman of prayer who lives what she preaches, Bishop Fisher will call us as clergy to spend as much time in our spiritual walk with God as we do seeking to lead God’s people,” writes the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, District Superintendent. “The day will include time for fellowship and learning, along with time to reflect and renew as we prepare our hearts for the Lenten journey ahead.”

SOUTHWEST DISTRICT

Laurie Mellinger,Ph.D,MillersvilleUniversityClergy of the Southwest District will lift their voices together in prayer and praise at historic Boehm’s Chapel in Willow Street (13 W Boehm’s Rd, Willow Street). They will gather first for fellowship, then for an old-fashioned hymn sing. Invited along with current clergy are those who will join them in July as part of the new West District.

The assembly will then hear a lesson on the day’s topic, “Prayer as a Discipline during Lent and Regular Time,” presented by Laurie Mellinger, Ph.D., Dean of Academic Programs and Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation and Christian Theology at Evangelical Seminary. After decades of teaching music and leading contemporary worship teams, she earned a Ph.D. in Christian Spirituality from The Catholic University of America.

PierreEadeCroppedEAST DISTRICT

At the East District Lenten Day Apart clergy will share first in the most important meal of the day and later in the most important meal of the month. They will begin with Continental Breakfast at the UMC of Huntingdon Valley (3470 Huntingdon Pike, Huntingdon Valley) and end with Holy Communion.

In-between, they will join in a refreshing time of prayer with training led by Pierre Eade, a young pastor on staff at Washington Crossing UMC. He will teach techniques to make prayer time a source of personal refreshment. Included will be a talk on the importance of maintaining spiritual vitality as a Christian leader and guided prayer activities to bring personal refreshment and encouragement.

Members are asked to bring writing utensils and journals, along with hearts ready to be refreshed. Eade is the busy author of Born to Grow. His life mission is “to inspire, educate and empower people to grow.”

fastnachsNORTHWEST DISTRICT

Clergy of the Northwest District will enjoy a traditional, savory staple of Shrove Tuesday, when they convene at Miller’s Crossroads UMC (1929 Plumb Creek Rd., Sunbury, PA). They will be treated to the famous, homemade fastnachs, doughuts traditionally prepared by Miller’s Crossroads and other Pennsylvania Dutch Country venues on the day before Lenten fasts begin, as kitchens are cleared of savory foods in preparation for those fasts.

Hosted by the Shamokin Area Mission ConneXion, also known as “Methodists United,” the Day Apart will also include prayers, singing of favorite hymns, devotions led by the Rev. Karyn Fisher, small groups gathered for prayer and conversation, and a demonstration of art used as a tool for centering prayer. Clergy and laity of the district will get to enjoy a second Lenten gathering on Wednesday, March 8, at 7 PM, at Clark’s Grove UMC (3215 Irish Valley Road, Paxinos). Bishop Peggy Johnson will preach during that Lenten service.

NORTHEAST DISTRICT

Northeast District clergy will gather at Asbury UMC in Allentown to feed body, mind and soul with breakfast, an informative Lenten lecture by the Rev. Rodney Shearer, and worship with Holy Communion. Shearer, a Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry at Evangelical Seminary, has been in ministry for over four decades as a pastor, district superintendent, and college and seminary professor. Free Spirit, the NE District’s gifted, musical praise band, will lead worship. And a special offering will be received to support Camperships, a district-wide Mission Project.

Lent_2013_40daysCENTRAL DISTRICT

Finally, Central District clergy will jointly experience “Journey…Spiritually Centered through The Power of Prayer” Tuesday morning at Christ UMC (1020 S. Valley Forge Rd, Lansdale). Participants are asked to prepare their hearts by fasting, if they are able, from 6 AM until they break bread together at 12 noon.

“Take a Journey into the presence of the King!” reads the invitation. “Walk the road of prayer. Experience prayer as a respite in creative ways. Find your way through activities of joy, reflection, confession, healing. Spend time in solitude and silence.  Refresh your Spirit and re-new.   Prepare for Lent and the flurry of pastoral activity.   The King awaits you. . .”

Prayer stations will motivate participants to pray as part of the Central District’s Prayer Initiative, as selected scriptures (see below) offer inspiration at each station.  After moving through 12 “prayer activities,” the Prayer Journey fast will end with Holy Communion.

Jean Howe, a Certified Lay Minister serving at Grace UMC in Reading, designed the program. She is also Coordinator of Adult Discipleship at West Lawn UMC. “This is a day you will not forget,” she promises. “This is a retreat which will send you home ready to share the grace of Jesus Christ in deeper and more meaningful ways.” Participants will receive copies of the Journey event and “take-home” ideas to share with their congregations for similar Lenten prayer events.

Central District Calendar of Prayer Scriptures for 2016-2017

June 2016

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

July 2016

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

August 2016

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  Colossians 4:2

September 2016

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  Jeremiah 29:12

October 2016

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 12:12

November 2016

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.  Psalm 145:18

December 2016

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

January 2017

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  James 1:6

February 2017

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effectiveJames 5:16

March 2017

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  Luke 6:27-28

April 2017

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  John 14:13

May 2017

This is the confidence we have in approaching God:  that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  1 John 5:14