Click here to watch the video of the Fall Retirees Gathering. Click here to see images from the day.
"Wasting Time with Jesus" was the title of the message from Bishop Laurie Haller to the full room of retired clergy and spouses who gathered for the annual Fall Gathering at New Hope United Methodist Church in Des Moines on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.
On a picture perfect Fall morning retirees came to catch up on life, renew friendships and meet their new Episcopal leader, Bishop Laurie Haller.
Rev. Bill Poland, Assistant to the Bishop for Administration, introduced Bishop Laurie expressing what a delight it has been to begin working with her and added “she is a person of deep faith and someone who is very, very personable. I know you will appreciate her ministry as I have already.”
"I have relied on the wisdom and the counsel and experience of retired clergy for my whole career," Bishop Laurie said as she opened the morning. "You are my heroes in the faith."
The morning worship was in the Taizé style. Taizé is a meditative form of worship that originated in a small town near Burgundy, France, during World War II.
This style of worship includes simple repetitive music, sung over and over until it becomes a prayer. 100,000 visitors worship at the Taizé Community each year. It is especially for young people and thousands from around the world camp, worship, study the Bible and play music there.
Together retirees repeatedly sang three Taizé songs "Come and Fill
," "Nothing Can Trouble
," and "In the Lord
" while Bishop Laurie accompanied on the piano.
Bishop Laurie went on to talk to the retirees about clergy health which has been a focus of hers primarily because she has struggled with her own health at times.
“Clergy are in need of deep rest,” she explained. “Rest that helps repair muscles, heals and helps you regain perspective.”
Bishop Laurie talked about how she was a carefree child in a small town in Pennsylvania who was always outside playing. She loved to write, sing and play music and never wanted to do anything but work in the church.
“Then I became an adult and was ordained as a pastor. In the busyness of raising a family and leading a church, I became consumed by never-ending demands of ministry,” Bishop Laurie continued. “The work of leading a congregation is never done, especially for someone with my type A personality. Somehow along the journey, I lost my way.”
After twenty years of pastoring local churches, she felt that her love for ministry had almost gone out. She was struggling with trying to balance caring for her family, parishioners and herself. She felt disconnected from God. She was doing all these things for
God, but not taking enough time to simply be with God
, to “waste time with Jesus.”
Bishop Laurie read this quote, “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”
“What I was doing was consenting to lose sight of the shore for what seemed like a very long time. And I was scared. I had no idea where God would lead me,” she said.
Bishop Laurie was able to take a three-month recess from pastoral ministry by receiving a Lilly Endowment Renewal Leave Grant in 2000 to be used in 2001.
Her renewal leave began in September 2001 and for the next three months everything would go as planned—it did, at least for the first ten days.
She spent the first 10 days with her parents. First fly fishing with her father in Billings, MT, and then joining her mother in Arizona.
Then on September 11, 2001, everything changed.
“September 11th shook my world to the core as it did everyone else,” Bishop Laurie said. “I was feeling useless and helpless—all I could do was trust God.” She read a poem she wrote at the time from her book, Recess: Rediscovering Play and Purpose
, titled “I’m Sorry.”
After spending time with her parents, being stranded because of the travel ban in place and rearranging her plans, she was able to spend seven weeks in deep solitude in South Carolina. While there, she practiced spiritual discipline—doing devotions, eating simple foods, resting, reading and exercise.
“The book that influenced me more than any other while on my leave was by Rueben Job,” Bishop Laurie explained. “A Guide to Retreat for All of God’s Shepherds.
During that time she struggled with feeling worthless—that she had to produce something—but she learned how to “waste time with Jesus.”
Her planned trip Taizé was postponed for a few weeks, but in November 2001, she traveled to France.
The Taizé program lasts one week. On Friday’s they observe the crucifixion of Jesus.
“This was one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life. I placed my forehead on the cross as was the custom. All God wants is for me to love God and Jesus. I had lost and now regained my first love. God doesn’t care about the 15 hours days if I have no energy left to ‘waste time with Jesus.’"
“When I was at Taize I made the decision that I would continue in ministry. I needed to make some changes to my life and if I would do that I could survive in ministry because that is where God was calling me,” she said.
After her leave, she set new goals for herself:
• Seek out worship when I have no responsibilities
• Reading the Bible and other spiritual reading not connected with sermons
• Find a spiritual director
• Find time every day to "waste time with Jesus"
• Become more detached from my work–not seek worth through work
• Give up control
• Start a Taizé service
• Find more opportunities to sing, play organ, go to concerts
• Get enough rest
Bishop Laurie also wrote a new mission statement. “My mission is to love God and allow to use me to make a positive difference in the world. I vow to take care of myself, my family and those in the church and community I serve, and work to bring in the kingdom of God for all people,” she told the retirees.
Bishop Laurie is an advocate for renewal leaves. She said that not a day goes by that she doesn't think about her three months away. Her counsel to clergy is to work hard but also work smart by doing contextual ministry. Take care of yourself and your family and don't forget to take time for recess.
After prayer and benediction, time was taken for each table group to come up with a question that they would like to ask Bishop Laurie.
Bishop Laurie answered all the questions, gave advice and inspiration.
After lunch, Joni Mardesen, Director of Human Resources, met with the group in the afternoon to answer questions about insurance and other financial concerns. Click here to read more.