Monday, March 10, 2008

Order Of The Flame (5)

Here are a large selection of pictures from the recent Order Of The Flame conference: See The Pictures

You will find 250+ pictures that my wife and I took over the 4-1/2 days of the FLAME conference. I hope that you enjoy the pictures as much as we did the conference.

Yours because His,

Pastor Patrick

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Order Of The Flame (4)

Order Of The Flame (4)

The final day of the Order Of The Flame was by far the best. The original schedule allowed Grace Imathiu to have one more day of Bible Study, but because of unexpected circumstances at her church, she had to leave a day early. The day was special, none the less. For me three events stand out. The first was Rev. Spiller's address on the role of the Holy Spirit in evangelism. Without the Holy Spirit there could be no effective evangelism. He provides the power to do the very thing that God calls us to do.

I played hooky during the afternoon sessions - I spent a part of that time visiting the Methodist museum on the grounds of Epworth By The Sea. In the foyer of the museum stands the plaster cast that was used to create the statue of John Wesley which stands in Savannah, GA. The plaster cast has been painted with bronze enamel to both showcase the statue and to protect it - though you can see the plaster peeking through at one or two spots. The museum has actual letters signed by the likes of John and Charles Wesley and Francis Asbury. I also found the collection of nativity scenes of interest - whether made of cloth, clay, plastic, metal, or a host of other materials, the view that the various artists viewed the birth of our Lord was facinating. I sat in their presence for more than a few minutes. Though I took lots of pictures during our week in Georgia; sadly, I forgot to take pictures of these nativity scenes. Now I have a reason to return.

The last event of the afternoon was the final meeting of our Wesley Group. It was a time to reflect on our futures - both personally and within our ministry. During our final hour together, there were tears shed, there were amazing secrets shared, and God showered his blessing. I hope that our small group can remain in contact with each other during the coming years. I know, even as i write this four days after our Order Of The Flame has ended, I have prayed for the people that were part of our group.

The final worship service was an event in itself. Rev. Starnes, Director of Evangelism for the AME Zion Church, was the final preacher for FLAME. Dynamic and powerful, we were asked to recommit our lives to the things that were part of our original call to ministry. Finally, there was the "Graduation". Each participant was awarded a certificate and a small gift to help us remember the commitments we made throughout the week.

The conference has ended and we have arrived home safely. We argued (well, actually discussed) whether we should leave on Friday or Saturday. Our original plans were to leave on Saturday, but with the weather predicted for the Northeast over the weekend, we thought that giving ourselves an extra day of travel might be safer. In the end, we decided to stay in Georgia for the extra day and it was the right decision. The trip home was uneventful and the storm had totally passed by the time we arrived in Rochester.

Two months ago, I had never heard of Flame. Today, both Sandra and I are glad we were able to be part of this marvelous week. The people, the speakers, and the surroundings made it a wonderful time for spiritual reflection and growth. And we were allowed to be part of it. Thank you Jesus.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Order of the Flame (3)

Order Of The Flame (3)
The stained glass found in the "Lovely Lane Chapel" on the grounds of Epworth By The Sea is the site for our daily communion service held each day at 7:15 AM. This is only one example of the windows found in the chapels, we are surrounded by stained glass as we meet each morning. What a setting to begin to meet God.

John Wesley once said, “Give me 100 preachers, who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergy or lay, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.” This is the foundation upon which the Order Of The Flame was begun. As 100 individuals gather, including both lay and ordained, each year for training and preparation for "Faith Sharing" or evangelism, they are being prepared to be a part of the current year's class of 100. My wife and I have found it to be an exciting to be a part of this year's class.

Earlier today we traveled up the road to Fort Frederica - the first site of John and Charles' preaching in the Americas. In fact we met John Wesley this afternoon. He took just a few minutes to describe the work he and Charles did in Fort Frederica and, later, Savannah. It was not a very satisfying ministry for either - but it prepared them in several ways for the work that would begin just a few years later when they met Jesus Christ.

One of the highlights of each day has been the small groups that we have been part of. Groups have been composed of 12-13 people. Our group had five couples and three individuals. We each came to the Order Of The Flame for different reasons, we each came with different needs, we each came ready for God to work. And He did. Today's Wesley Groups (as the small groups are called) focused on the where we were in ministry. Though we had an hour scheduled, it took us nearly 90 minutes to hear all the stories - and we still had time for dinner! I thank God for the contribution that this group made to my life. I will hope to maintain contact with them again in the coming days and months.

The evening ended with a Celebration and Praise service. No preaching, just singing, praising, and praying. We spent time with our arms raised high to glorify Jesus and our knees acknowledging our need to depend on Him.

Many times throughout the week we were reminded that "God is good - all the time; all the time - God is good." We are experiencing his grace and goodness this week.

Yours because His,

Pastor Patrick

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Order of the Flame (2)

Order Of The Flame (2)

Order Of The Flame is now 40% done. It has been a good place to be - a needed refreshment from the rest of life's hassles. And the last 12 months has had its share of hassles. The details are not needed here - but let it be said it has included four members of my family and leaves life totally unsettled for most of us. Not fun at all.

The Order Of The Flame has not directly connected with the hassles - they will be there when we return home. Yet, there have been connections. For example, communion is offered each morning at 7:15. As part of the communion service we are reading the Moravian Daily Texts for 2008. Today's texts were from Joshua 8:1, "Do not fear or be dismayed!"; and I Peter 3:13-14, "Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed." As we finished our short service the Dr. Winston Worrell reminded us that we needed to "Trust God ... Trust God ... Trust God ... Trust God." As my wife and I have struggled through this years hassles, I have been reminding us that we only can "do our best" and that then we have to "trust God". We both heard my voice echoing through this morning's devotion.

The Order Of The Flame is composed of representatives from many different Methodist denominations - I have met men and women from the AME Zion Church, the Free Methodist Church, the Wesleyan Church, the United Methodist Church, and the Nazarene Church. There are two or three others, but that gives a sense of the fellowship we have this year. We have pastors, pastor spouses, laymen, and church leaders in attendance. It is a wonderful picture of what heaven will be like - though I expect we will also have Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and a host of others. I have been privileged to attend four IVCF Urbana Missionary Conferences over the years - as student, pastor, and college faculty. I experienced the same fellowship in that setting - where we realized that God was God regardless of what name we put on ourselves. Praise the Lord.

I would be amiss not to mention the theme of the Order Of The Flame. "FLAME" itself is an anacronym for "Faithful Leaders As Mission Evangelists". The conference itself focuses on Evangelism - and centers on Wesley's words from 1786:

“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

The Order Of The Flame focuses on the the three words found in the last sentence of this quote - the doctrine, the spirit, and the discipline needed to be effective evangelists. May we all learn to be effective evangelists as were John and Charles Wesley 260 years ago.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Order of the Flame

Order Of The Flame

I had never heard of the Order Of The Flame before last January. My wife and I were attending the United Methodist Congress on Evangelism in Savannah, GA. There, down the hall from the registration booth, was a table marked "World Evangelism". I had no idea who or what they were - but, silly me, I stopped and asked. It seems that this group represents Methodists around the world as they complete the task of evangelism. As part of that vision they sponsor yearly (or nearly so) "Order Of The Flame" conferences where they pull together 100 men and women involved in the work of the church from the various Methodist denominations in the Americas.

The conference interested me for three reasons -

  1. The focus on Wesleyan-Arminian theology, a general interest of mine.
  2. The focus on evangelism, a gift and a passion of mine
  3. The interdenominational nature of the conference - another passion of mine. The church crosses a great many boundaries, the various flavors of Methodism among them.

But there was a catch, you need to be nominated by the ecclesiastical leader of your denomination - and that is where it gets tough. It was okay to ask for an invitation, but from who? Though I pastor a United Methodist Church, I am ordained by the Wesleyan Church. It was unclear to the representative at the table or to me whether I should ask for an invitation from the Bishop serving the Western NY Conference of the United Methodist Church or the General Superintendent serving the Central NY District of the Wesleyan Church. The solution was easy - ask both.

And I did. Within a week the General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church wrote an invitation asking that I be allowed to attend. And the Bishop of the United Methodist Church wrote that the invitation really should come from the General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church. And so, my wife and I began making plans to attend the eighth class of the Order of the Flame.

And today we arrived at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simon's Island, GA.