SEJ conference provides sabbath for clergy


Special to the Advocate         

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. - No suits or ties were required. Relaxing and taking time to enjoy the day was a necessity.  

Southeastern Jurisdiction clergy and their families found a rhythm of rest through the practice of sabbath time. The gathering of clergy during the week of July 10-14 featured speakers the Rev. Wayne Muller and Billie Fidlin. The week was built around morning musings and afternoon adventures. 

Although the Rev. C Dick Reese of Isle of Hope UMC in Savannah, Ga., was busy with his tasks as a design team member, he enjoyed the different activities planned for the participants.  

“I just got off of a workshop talking about Jesus and the Sabbath. He talked about how Jesus changed the minds of the people towards the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for the man and not man for the Sabbath,” he said.   

Retired minister Jim Gentry of Indianapolis, Ind., led a workshop on how to plan a sabbatical. Gentry and his wife Marlene said they enjoy coming to the SEJ event because they have nothing comparable in their conference.  

For the last four years the Rev. Ron Smith and wife Connie have made Ministers’ Conference their primary place for earning continuing education units. The pastor of the Vienna-Shiloh charge said he brings his son who always goes to youth events at Shackford Hall. 

“Jim Gentry’s (workshop on) planning a sabbatical was excellent and informative. He was well-prepared and he had lots of good information on how to plan a sabbatical and he had resources. Every South Georgia minister should be here. These are the most enjoyable CEUs I’ve taken,” he said. 

The Rev. Warren Black and wife Janis of Oxford-University UMC in Oxford said they always enjoy their experiences at Lake Junaluska. The Rev. Steve McDonald of Greenwood also finds the conference enjoyable and relaxing.  

“It’s one of our family traditions. It’s a good getaway and good CEUs. A district superintendent is encouraged to take a one to three-month sabbatical. I am planning to take a sabbatical next summer so I won’t be at Ministers’ Conference. I went to the how-to-plan-a-sabbatical workshop and got a 10-point checklist on what to do and resources,” McDonald said. 

Dr. Carl Grubbs of Tupelo said he’s a regular at Ministers’ Conference. Although he was enjoying Wayne Muller’s teachings, Grubbs’ priority was to relax. “Sabbath to me is the turning loose of all responsibilities and resting in God,” he said. 

Sabbath Practices for Couples was the workshop choice for the Rev. Mike Morgan of Crossroads UMC in Conyers, Ga. and wife Karen. They said they enjoyed Muller’s teachings.  

“Yesterday Wayne Muller said work was taking something that is and changing to something else but Sabbath is enjoying something that is,” Morgan said. 

The Rev. Beth Luton Cook, director of Church Ministries Education, Candler School of Theology, led the workshop Sabbath Practices for Couples. Cook said the commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy is one of the hardest commandments to live and model to our congregations.  

“If you don’t learn anything else today, I’m here to remind you of the importance of rest. Be intentional about the ways in which you live within the time God’s given you,” she told the class.  

“I like the way we have not only been learning about sabbath but we have been exposed to Sabbath,” said the Rev. David Campbell of Trinity UMC in Rome, Ga. He was part of a team that hiked through the Great Smoky Mountain Parkway.