|By Michael Wacht
LEESBURG One week each year, Florida Conference clergy are invited to
attend an event that offers continuing education, renewal and nurturing. It's called the
School of Ministry, but for many who participate, it's more like a school reunion.
Held Oct. 5-8 at the Life
Enrichment Center in Leesburg, the theme for this year's school was "Spiritual
Renewal for Spiritual Leaders." The week's goal was to help clergy "really
connect with who we are and provide an opportunity for spiritual renewal," said the
Rev. Dan Johnson, dean of the School and pastor of Trinity
United Methodist Church in Gainesville
In addition to a full schedule of planned events, including guest speakers, a musical
concert and worship service, clergy had free time to participate in "golf, recreation
and a really great opportunity to just connect with each other," Johnson said.
The Rev. Sharon Dey, pastor of Hillsborough United Methodist Church in Tampa, said she
especially looked forward to the clergy reunions: "I enjoy seeing everybody
the friends I only get to see a couple of times a year."
Approximately 400 full-time, associate and local pastors and deacons attended the school.
The featured speaker was Sister Kathleen Flood, a faculty member at Wesley Theological
Seminary, who combined her own personal experiences with classical theology and mysticism
in her presentations on "Experiencing Spiritual Renewal."
Kathryn Parker, a registered and licensed dietitian, educated the group on how to develop
healthy eating habits. Other speakers shared advice on managing people and problems and
how to maintain a vital ministry and preaching style week after week.
Break-out meetings for groups with special interests were also held. Local, female and
African-American pastors were among those that met to share the triumphs and trials unique
to their ministries.
"We're dealing with some real issues on theology, on health, on staying fresh,"
said the Rev. Eddie Murphy Jr., pastor of Harris Chapel United Methodist Church in Ft.
Lauderdale. "I always learn something; I'm always motivated when I come."
Even those new to the conference appreciated the connections that are made at the event.
The Rev. Rick Thompson, associate pastor of Trinity
United Methodist Church in Palm Beach Gardens, said he was not planning to attend
because he couldn't afford the time to get away. "I came on the advice of my senior
minister. He told me it would be good to be here and get to know others in the
conference," he said. "It was a good School of Ministry, taking care of our
spiritual center and who we are as spiritual leaders."
The best part of the event, said Dey, was the chance "to do a little receiving
instead of being on the giving end."
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© 1998 Florida United Methodist Review Online