Adventist Pastors Cross Geographic
Lines, Meet for Study Retreat
Ministers from United States, Canada join for three days in Maine. (Posted December 20, 2012)
BY SHAWN BRACE
, Northern New England Conference
lose to 50 Seventh-day Adventist pastors, Bible workers, and their spouses from three different conferences met at Camp Lawroweld in Weld, Maine, for a Bible retreat October 16-18, 2012. Set alongside tranquil Lake Webb, attendees spent nearly three days in earnest prayer and studying the New Testament book of Romans.
“I had heard different stories about experiences here, how the pastors were coming together in the Northern New England Conference, especially to focus on Christ our righteousness,” John Fournier, president of the Maritime Conference in eastern Canada, reflected. After realizing the emphasis was very much in line with their own conference’s vision, Fournier decided “it would be good to team our conferences together in pursuit of this very vision, to emphasize Christ, to promote Him, and to feed our souls.”
So, Fournier, treasurer Ed Sharpe, and all the pastors and Bible workers from the Maritime Conference, made the trip south of the border to experience an intense time of Bible study and prayer.
PASTORS GATHER: Seventh-day Adventist pastors from the Northern New England, Southern New England, and Maritime conferences at Camp Lawroweld in Weld, Maine. [PHOTO: Courtesy of Shawn Brace]
For Whitford Shaw, Southern New England Conference (SNEC) executive secretary, it was an easy decision to attend the retreat, and to encourage the pastors in his conference to join him. “In the early spring we had a meeting with our pastors, praying,” Shaw said, “and when we saw that invitation, we said, ‘Yes, the Holy Spirit is leading.’ ”
This was the third year the voluntary Bible retreat was held, and the first time it was a multiconference event. Three years ago, in 2010, a couple of pastors in the Northern New England Conference (NNEC) felt burdened about having a time when pastors could retreat to simply pray and study the Bible. With the conference’s permission and support, a dozen pastors and spouses met at Camp Lawroweld, the conference’s youth camp, to study the book of Galatians. It was such a blessing that they decided to make it an annual event.
This year, however, they decided to invite the Maritime Conference and the Southern New England Conference to study the book of Romans. The response was overwhelming.
“It enriched me to discover how limited I am in my own understanding and how much I need this multiple complementarity that comes from all those others that have part of the right understanding,” said Alexandru Breja, of the Brooklawn and North Stamford, Connecticut, churches, and who also holds a Ph.D. in Old Testament studies from Andrews University.
Added Greg Carlson, pastor of the Berlin, New Hampshire, and Woodstock, Maine, churches, “The whole experience kind of highlighted the beauty of Scripture and encouraged me to get deeper into it.”
While in previous years attendees were able to stay in one group to study, the numbers this year necessitated the group be divided into four smaller groups, consisting of pastors from all three conferences. The groups met in various locations around the camp but came together each evening to pray, sing, and share with the larger group what they had learned that day.
Each group had the goal of studying chapters 5-16 in Romans, but, as can be expected, every group went at a different pace.
“With so many voices and so many opinions, I felt that we just kept getting deeper and deeper,” reflected Fournier, whose group, through nearly three days of verse-by-verse study, barely made it through chapter 7. “So much material came out of every passage. It was a depth of study that I hadn’t engaged in in a long time.”
This type of study was, perhaps, what made the time such a special experience for all who attended. Though each group had chapter facilitators, the only agenda attendees had was to follow the Spirit’s leading and soak in everything Romans had to say. It was both theologically rich and practically fulfilling. “It’s so deep, and yet it’s so practical,” said Carlson.
The NNEC organizers hope to continue the momentum and move forward in the years to come. As space permits, they hope to open the retreat up to other pastors from around the world. n
—Information on future retreats is available to pastors by contacting Brace at shawn email@example.com.