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Five-day Academy brings spiritual transformation for participants

Five-day Academy brings spiritual transformation for participants

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Five-day Academy brings spiritual transformation for participants

June 25, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0508}

An e-Review Feature
By Nancy E. Johnson**

Diane McClintock wasn’t supposed to be there; her name did not appear on the registration list. But three months after the Florida Conference’s Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation, she realizes the conference she really had not planned to attend changed her life forever.

“It was life-altering. I was surrounded by female pastors, and I felt like God set it up,” she said.

The academy took place last March at the conference’s Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park, near Leesburg. It was the sixth annual gathering, sponsored by the conference’s Spiritual Formation team.

Jane Vennard, a spiritual director for the United Church of Christ and an adjunct faculty member at Iliff School of Theology, spoke about prayer and discernment. Her co-presenter was Dr. David Lowes Watson, director of the Office of Pastoral Formation for the Nashville Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church. Watson’s presentation was on Protestant spirituality.

McClintock is a member of Hope United Methodist Church in New Port Richey. She had made no plans to attend the retreat, but when a woman from her church who had planned to attend the conference decided she couldn’t go, McClintock took her place.

“Inside, I was very uncomfortable when I got there,” McClintock said. “I was agitated. Somehow, I knew I was getting a message from God.”

Fifty-two laity and clergy came together for the weeklong retreat. Each day began with prayer, followed by lectures and time for silent reflection. The Rev. John Gill of Tomoka United Methodist Church in Ormond Beach recalled his first time attending the academy the previous year.

“I must confess I didn’t quite know what to expect,” he said. “To be honest, I probably came looking for some new discipline to try, some new spiritual gimmick that would finally do the trick where all the others had failed. I didn’t get that, but I got so much more.”

Gill said he made entries in his journal every day of the retreat. He realized being spiritual involved more than praying and reading his Bible. God’s requirement for him went even deeper.

“My relationship with God is not dependent on whether or not I do anything. My relationship with God is based on my being who God would have me to be. Only then is the divine power of God able to work through me,” he said.

As McClintock listened to each speaker and spent time in reflection, her spirit remained restless. “I was agitated. I looked at the cross in front of the Enrichment Center, and I started crying. What I was hearing was God saying ‘Are you going to surrender?’ ”

McClintock’s life was in turmoil. She was dealing with the death of her mother three years ago, as well as financial problems. It was always Psalm 23 that helped her cope during difficult times. When she walked into worship at the academy one morning, she said she heard everyone singing Psalm 23. She knew something was happening, but she kept resisting it.

“I told my husband I didn’t like the people or the worship. It was too traditional. But I also told Bill I thought I was being called to pastor,” she said.

She was terrified. Her resume didn’t reflect that of a woman on the pastoral track. She was working as a manager of a restaurant, a job she’d had for eight years. Before that, she did odd jobs. During the retreat, however, she met other dynamic women, including Vennard, who was 41 years old when she went into the ministry. McClintock also spent time with the Rev. Cathy Thacker, pastor of St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Winter Park.

“This was the first time I’ve heard of someone having a calling to ministry at the academy,” Thacker said. “But the thing about the call is that it never goes away.”

McClintock received the support and reassurance she needed that week. She kept feeling the gentle nudging of God. “My covenant group laid hands on me and prayed. I felt the Spirit give me peace. And then, I heard Psalm 23,” she said.

On the third day of the retreat, she called her husband at 4:30 a.m. to tell him she was going to take the necessary steps to become a pastor. The high school graduate signed up for college courses when she returned home and is working on her bachelor’s degree.

“I’m a thick-head, but you have to trust where God is leading you,” she said.


This article relates to Spiritual Formation.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Nancy E. Johnson is a Florida-based, freelance television and print journalist.