By Jessica Brodie
What does it mean to pull together during COVID and a time of unrest rather than apart?
That’s what United Methodist men across South Carolina are hoping to explore when they gather this month for their men’s spiritual retreat.
This year’s event is free and mostly online, though some groups of men are socially distance gathering at host churches, while others are participating from their homes.
Set for Friday, Feb. 26, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., the theme is One in the Spirit, drawing from the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (NIV).
L.W. Smith, event coordinator, said men’s ministry leaders hope the topic brings an emphasis on unity in Christ during a time of strife and upheaval.
“All across the country there are so many divisions we are all dealing with—political, racial, our own church, the division of families who can’t be together because of COVID-19—and we felt like with all this, we need to be one in the Spirit,” Smith said. “God tells us, ‘You can’t do anything without me,’ yet everyone is always trying to be their own self, and we felt like God was leading us just to stress that in the church—that we all know we are one in the body of Christ, and for us to move forward, we have to do that in the Spirit.”
Trevor Miller, on the event’s design team, echoed that.
“For our culture, everything is a dividing factor right now. We want to explore what does it mean for men in the church to be people of peace and unity and pull together rather than apart?” Miller said.
In the past, the men have gather in person at various large churches around the state, most recently at Mount Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington. Event leaders decded to shift this year’s event to a Friday night largely online event, where men could have the choice of either participating from home or gathering at a church with other men.
Keynote speakers are Carlos Whitaker, the author of “Moment Maker,” “Kill The Spider” and “Enter Wild,” and John Eldredge, author of “Wild at Heart,” “Captivating,” “Fathered by God,” “All Things New,” “Get your Life Back” and “Beautiful Outlaw.”
Whitaker is slated to speak on divisions in the culture, including COVID, the presidency and racial reconciliation.
Eldredge is slated to speak on men in the home who fight for
Bishop Jonathan Holston is also supposed to speak, and there will also be a discussion time designed so men can participate on their own or as a group.
As Smith explained, they will be given time to answer discussion questions whether alone in their recliner or if in a group setting with local churches via livestream.
Mount Horeb UMC, Lexington, and St. John’s UMC Aiken, are major sponsors of the event and in-person hosts.
Other sponsors include Aldersgate UMC, Sumter; Centenary-Kingsville Charge in Hartsville District; Edgefield UMC, Greenwood District; Cedar Grove-Forest Chapel Charge, Orangeburg District; Lee Road UMC, Greenville District; Lyttleton Street UMC, Camden; and Windsor UMC, Columbia.
Although this is a free event, all are asked to register on EventBrite to assure organizers have proper contact information to forward the link for the event.
To register for the free men’s retreat, visit the website at http://mennministrysc.org.