Clergy gather to explore ‘Strengthening of Your Soul to Lead’

By Jessica Brodie

LEXINGTON—Clergy from across the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Churches headed to Lexington UMC Nov. 16 for an in-person gathering to explore “Strengthening of Your Soul to Lead.”

Organized by the Order of Elders, Order of Deacons and the Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members, the event featured Dr. Ruth Haley Barton, spiritual director and author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry,” “Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation,” “Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups” and “Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest: From Sabbath to Sabbatical and Back Again.” She is also the host of the “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership” podcast where, in conversation with other leaders, she regularly explores how we can forge a stronger connection between our souls and our leadership.

Event leaders included Bishop L. Jonathan Holston; the Rev. Morris Waymer, chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministry, the Rev. Brenda Washington, chairperson of the Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members; the Rev. Meg Jiunnies, chairperson of the Order of Deacons; and the Rev. Mary Johnson, chairperson of the Order of Elders.

After a prayer from Jiunnies and a welcome from Lexington UMC’s senior pastor, the Rev. Mack McDowell, Holston greeted all and noted that strengthening our souls is critical in the church.

“If there’s one thing we should protect with all we can, it’s the essence of who we are and whose we are,” Holston said.

He said that when the church loses its soul, it becomes a shell of itself, but when we’re all strengthened, then God’s church throughout the whole world is strengthened.

Barton opened by encouraging all to participate in a gathering prayer designed to help us get in touch with our soul, that place where God is present with us. She noted that in Matthew 16:26, Jesus asked, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (NIV).

She said when we lose our credit card, we immediately stop everything to find it, or take measures to fix the situation before it becomes a problem. But many of us have a difficult time understanding when we have lost our soul, or are in danger of slipping.

“We need the same urgency around losing souls as when we lose our credit card,” she said—stop everything, retrace your steps, seek, and take measures to correct. “This is one of the most critical aspects of what we need to be paying attention to right now.”

She spent the day helping clergy assess where they are in soul-wellness, learning how to honestly reflect and assess from a place of grace and truth, not shame.

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