Inventory Retreat

 Next week the Cabinet goes on its annual Inventory Retreat.  It is a yearly trek for virtually all bishops and cabinets.  We gather away from our various offices (in our case at Stillwater).  We always begin with a time of worship and prayer, a time of centering and quieting ourselves so that we might be open to the Spirit's speaking.   One by one we review churches where the pastor is retiring.  This gives us a sense of the "clean openings" (i.e., places that will be open and need an appointment for next June where there will be no pastor needing to move to another appointment).  We examine those graduating from seminary or course of study school who are seeking an appointment.  We look at the various places and situations where either the church or pastor has indicated that a move might be best.  Constantly we will be asking ourselves "what is the mission field appointment here?"  We have a banner we hang in the room to remind us that our "clients" are (1) God, (2) the mission field, (3) the church, and (4) the clergy -- in that order.  I find the whole process exhausting.  No matter how hard we try (and we try very, very hard!) we encounter deep dilemmas and hard choices.  What appears simple from the outside is incredibly complex in the Cabinet room with the detailed information and data that are not usually available to others.  Painfully, I can recall as a pastor criticizing an appointment made to my District Superintendent.  I asked him how in the world they could make appointment "x" to a certain church.  He listened to me with patience, raised an eyebrow and commented, "We had 8 people turn  us down before we asked 'x' to go there.  We know it is not the best appointment.  It is the best we can do at this time given all the variables."  As I prepare to go, I find my prayer life dominated by a request for the Spirit's presence and guidance.  The prayer of Aelred of Reivaulx has been guiding my devotional life -- "To know Him [Christ] more clearly; to love Him more dearly; to follow Him more nearly.”  In fact, I have made it my prayer for the year (by that I mean I am determined to pray this simple prayer every day of the year).  We will not be making all appointments for the year.  While we may make a few, the emphasis for the retreat is gain a big picture of the appointment task before us.  In addition to the above assumptions, we are driven by convictions that long-term pastorates are best.  Frequent moves that merely "promote a pastor" or "reward a church" fail to truly advance the kingdom of God.  The churches' mission is to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."  Our mission as a Cabinet is to "energize and equip local churches" for the larger mission of making disciples.  We hope to be Spirit-guided and prayer-empowered.  I ask the reader to keep us in prayer for the days of the Inventory Retreat (February 15 - 17).