Feb 20, 2024 | John W. Coleman

Each month on the first Wednesday, EPA Clergy are invited to stop and take some time for themselves to re-generate, to connect with God, and to just “breathe.” The next half-day Clergy Spiritual Retreat is scheduled for March 6, 12:30 to 3:30 PM, at St. Andrew’s UMC, 611 Swamp Creek Rd, Bechtelsville, PA (on the East District) and via Zoom.


Sixteen participants—12 onsite, four on Zoom—attended the first monthly spiritual retreat for clergy and lay pastors February 7, held at Richmond United Methodist Church in Bangor, PA, on the North District. The small, hybrid gathering may have seemed like a perfect size for the intimate sharing that happened. But more participants are certainly desired and welcomed.

The next half-day retreat is scheduled for Wednesday, March 6, at St. Andrew’s UMC in Bechtelsville, on the East District, and via Zoom. The time may again be 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., but that may change. Check the EPA website for more information. Other monthly retreats will be planned for locations around the conference, a gift to pastors from the Eastern PA Conference Cabinet.

Rev. Peter Jamieson

“We had a good group with some good discussion,” reported the Rev. Peter Jamieson, retreat facilitator and the host pastor. “And we had a time of silence. I told the group that just because we will be in silence doesn’t mean we can’t move around if we feel the need.  Some chose to sit in the social hall, others in the sanctuary, and one found a comfy chair in the nursery. But others went outside and just walked around.”

Indeed, the silent sitting and walking-around gifted participants with external and internal observations often overlooked or ignored by busy minds focused on daily responsibilities. They shared some of those observations in open discussion and responded with helpful suggestions to one another about spiritual practices.

That may be one of the best things about a spiritual retreat: not so much getting away from one’s ordinary life but coming back to it with an extraordinary gift.

That happened for Lela Hartranft, a Certified Lay Minister and the pastor of Emmanuel UMC in Allentown. She heard a fellow retreatant discuss the comfort of his intentional reading of Scriptures from the Psalms each morning, and she decided to try it for herself.

Lela Hartranft

“I decided to follow up on that,” she wrote to the others in an email message after the retreat. “Since I am my husband’s caregiver, after I got him settled for bed last night, I looked up the following Scriptures. I read: ‘I called you. You are my servant. I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you…’”

She quoted more from Psalms 41 and 43 and also thanked her peers for “listening to my story” about the challenges she faces caring for her husband and her church. “It is my first assignment as a pastor.  I have been there just over a year and a half. But this is truly the best time of my life.  God is good all the time.  All the time God is good.”

Jamieson will use his many years of experience to lead the monthly retreats. He appreciated attending the Cabinet’s first of three 2023 “Rhythms of Grace” retreats last April, with 25 other EPA clergy members. He hopes this year’s retreats will “teach spiritual practices that can be a source of strength and trust in God, as we continue to lead our congregations during a time of transitions.”

A retired elder from the Greater New Jersey Conference, Jamieson came to Richmond UMC in 2020 on his continuing spiritual journey. It began with a Walk to Emmaus gathering in 2004 that led him to answer God’s call to pastoral ministry. 

“Gathering with others enables the Holy Spirit to work within each of us to become more open to God’s presence and calling,” he said. “We need some sense of support and nurture from each other.”