Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Sr. Communications Specialist, Mississippi Conference
Photo right: Ashley Lander talks to Rev. Larry Hilliard, director of spiritual leadership for the Mississippi Conference about his is call to ministry.
Photo below right: Participants were given a check list outlining the phases of candidacy in The United Methodist Church. The information can be found on the Mississippi Conference website under Spiritual Leadership.
Photo below left: Patty Robinson, an administrative assistant of 23 years at Main Street UMC in Hattiesburg, said she senses a call to prison ministry.
Forty-two people came together for a retreat as peers--seeking three C's in relation to their call to ministry--confidence, clarity and certainty. Ashley Lander was one of the participants who said the retreat was a mission accomplished. Guilt from past mistakes caused Lander to doubt his call. In addition, he worried if he becoming a minister would have a negative impact on his children. Lander is a single father raising his 13-year-old daughter and his 7-year-old son who is autistic. However, attending The Next Phase Retreat eased his fears.
"Seeing and hearing from all these people with the same passion as I do and for all the prayer and the guidance from the elders and the people involved here, I have more passion than I thought... I am like just let that go and trust in the Lord," said Lander.
The Next Phase Retreat is a collaborative effort of The Mississippi Conference Board of Ordained Ministries (BOM) and the conference Office of Spiritual Leadership. Their purpose is to provide the next steps for those sensing the call or ready for the next phase in their call to ministry. Until now, the process had been frustrating for some candidates because the steps were done differently across the Mississippi Conference.
For Samantha Gentry who said she began sensing her call five years ago as a sophomore in high school, the retreat was helpful.
"It cuts out a lot of the run around of going to so many sources for information. It's all been here in one place. I am really glad the conference did this," she explained.
The retreat also offered time for education and learning. Kitsy Dixon shared one of many points that she took away from the retreat.
"I learned from the conference that ministry just isn't the pulpit that actually there is more ministry outside the pulpit. That is the piece that I don't think is commonly explored which this retreat let us know that is okay to serve in the trenches...and that may be me-the one serving in the trenches," said Dixon.
Organizers said the retreat exceeded their expectations in attendance. The retreat will be offered twice a year, but the date has not been set for the next one. Meanwhile those sensing the call are encouraged to start having conversations with their pastor and district superintendent in preparation for The Next Phase.
To see pictures from The Next Phase Retreat that was held at the Duncan Gray Center in Canton, Mississippi, March 21- April 2, click here.