You all remember that Micheal W. Smith song, Friends are Friends Forever? Oh sure you do and admit it, you like it. You may mock those who get all teary and sway back-and-forth at conference good-byes, but you and I both know that if not for those BFF's – yeah I just used "BFF" – you would not have survived middle school with as little damage to your psyche as you did.
Over the past few months, I have had some meaningful interactions with some close friends where I have needed to do some leaning and others where I have had to do the propping up. As I reflect on these things I am reminded of those grace-filled friendships that allow all involved to truly discover and grow into who God intends for us to be.
Inspired by the response to a call anti-conference thread on twitter by Carol, I was reminded of two important groups in my ministry that I was not able to be part of this year due to my moderatorial travels. As I connect with those folks in other venues, I am again reminded of how much I miss having met with them this year.
- First thank you to the Racial Ethnic Advanced Pastoral Study Seminary, a group of clergy from my area that has been meeting for over 20 years – I started meeting with them in 1995 – and who's past saints have paved the way for so many. 15-20 of us meet over a week at a retreat center to study, pray and lift one another up in the midst of our ministry. This past year we lost one of the great servants of our day, Rev. Dr. Frank Jackson who's ministry touched so many, but who's very life taught us all the nature of being pastor, prophet and priest in the world today.
- The other group that I lift up is one that I have been part of for nearly 10 years, the used-to-be-titled "Young Urban Pastor's Gathering" is a group of folks who self-identify as serving in an urban context. Now named the "Urban Pastor's Covenant Group", we gather in a different city each year to simply find ways to grow together in our understanding of God's call on our lives. For the laughter, tears, challenge and comfort that we have offered one another over the years, I am grateful.
These two groups I consider a gift from God. You all know who you are and as we each go through changes in our lives, calls and dreams please know that, while I was not able to be with you this year, you are in my prayers.
See you next year.
And if you want a great song about the nature of friends, here is David LaMotte performing, We're all each Other's Angels. Feel free to sway and cry a little if you like, I won't tell anyone 😉