JOHOR BAHRU – Some 100 pastors from the three Annual Conferences benefited from a retreat conducted by Bishop William H. Willimon from the United Methodist Church in the United States. The three-day retreat was held in idyllic surroundings in Sofitel Palm Resort in Johor from March 25 to 27.
The theme was “Wesleyan soundings for the present and future church”.
Bishop Willimon, 62, currently serving in North Alabama, is best known as a theologian, writer and a former Dean of the Chapel at Duke University, and considered by many to be one of the United States’ best-known preachers.
The retreat began with an opening worship immediately after a time of orientation and lunch. Bishop Dr Robert Solomon gave the sermon entitled “Come With Me” based on the Scripture text from Mark 6: 6b-13, 30-31.
Stating that “our retreat is with Christ, and we are the gathered ones”, he told the pastors that this was an opportunity to spend some quality time with Jesus, withdrawing with Him to a quiet place.
“It is extremely important that we do not lose the presence of Christ in our lives and ministry. It is so easy, isn’t it, to lose it, to stray away from it, to neglect it.
“So our Lord lovingly and gently invites us personally to ‘Come With Me’. The Sent Ones must also be gathered, fed and strengthened. Let us consider this time as an encounter with Jesus. We will have talks, discussions, interaction. In all this, may it be a time of holy conferencing. And in all of this, may we encounter our living Lord.”
The Bishop said that pastors need a quiet place and they need to get some rest. “We need to get away from our usual crowded places of ministry. Jesus knew the importance of this. He regularly withdrew to quiet places where He would commune with His Father. We need to respect the fact that people may need to really experience a quiet place, away from the hustle and bustle of ministry, away from phone calls and emails, meetings, and rushing about.
“Getting rest from busy schedules is important, an important rhythm for healthy lives and effective ministries.
“The only place we can find true rest is in Christ. That is why He invites us to come to Him.”
After dinner, Bishop Willimon gave the first of his four talks entitled “Working in Ministry with Wesley”. He discussed what Wesley found out about God, and the implications for Wesleyan theology for the work of ministry today.
The next day, March 26, he gave two talks. In the morning, he talked about “Caring for People in the Wesleyan Tradition” in which he discussed what Wesley believed about the people of God and the implications for pastoral care and leadership. In the evening, he spoke on “Preaching With Wesley”, touching on the implications for contemporary preachers of the Gospel from the work of the Wesleys.
His final talk on the morning of the last day was about “Evangelising with Wesley”. He dealt with the Wesleyan tradition as a movement in evangelism and what that meant for contemporary Wesleyans.
The morning talks were preceded by a time of worship, and after each talk, the pastors broke up into small groups for discussion.
The retreat closed with a Holy Communion Service.
It was not “all work and no play” for the pastors as there was time for recreation and relaxation.