Ending strong

Posted Dec 12, 2016 | Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs

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This blog post is part of a series that features guest posts from pastors who have participated in Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal grants. We wish to highlight some helpful approaches to the process which have allowed these grants to be blessings to both the pastors who go on renewal leaves and to the congregations themselves.
 
The renewal leave provided me the first extended time for refocusing and personal renewal. In the past I would take perhaps a few days or a week, but even so, I was focusing on my next Sunday sermon and did not have the freedom to really just zero in on me. During this time, I connected again with something that had been one of my early aspirations – writing. At least two books have been birthed in me even to the point of outlining them and beginning the research. One of the most interesting things that came about as a result of my time reflecting, refocusing and renewing was the impact it had on my preaching. I came back a much stronger preacher than I was before I went on the renewal leave.
 
I have long had a desire to know more about the Ethiopia that scripture speaks about. I now have a greater appreciation for the Bible’s connection with Africa as a whole and Ethiopia in particular. I was truly amazed to find that Ethiopia and Ethiopian Christianity are connected to both Judaism and Christianity. I also found myself amazed at the number of persons who would dedicate themselves as monks to payer and study of the word of God. I left Ethiopia looking forward to my next trip there.

My efforts to connect with the historical roots of Black Christians in America was especially rewarding and challenging. To see how we took nothing and built great colleges, universities, churches, and businesses was indeed gratifying. Perhaps one of the most devastating things was to see how much of the cultural legacy of Black Americans is being systematically eradicated.
 
One of the important impacts that this program had on the congregation was the coming together that resulted from it. The departure and return celebrations were an exciting time for the congregation. I think one of the big impacts was that something of a kinship with Ethiopia developed in that we brought in Ethiopians to share with the congregation during my absence. The welcome celebration even included food that one of our guests provided.
 
Perhaps the greatest personal discovery that I had as a result of the renewal leave was to come face-to-face with the fact that I had become weary in my ministry. Consequently, I returned refreshed, invigorated, and perhaps able to pastor another five or 10 years. I elected not to do so, however, because one of the requests I’d made of God is that I would end my ministry strong. So, ending it sometime after the renewal leave will allow for that kind of end.
 
This piece has been adapted from the reflections of the Rev. Frank Alexander, senior pastor of Oasis of Hope Baptist Church, Indianapolis, IN.

The Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) seek to strengthen Christian congregations by providing opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection. To request permission to repost this content, please contact clergyrenewal@cts.edu.

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