This week more than 40 North Georgia Conference clergy and worship planners along with four from the Mississippi Conference gathered in downtown Atlanta for the 3-day Kindling in the City retreat. This was a new location and format for the beloved Kindling the Fire lectionary reading and worship planning retreat.
Participants met at Central UMC where they listened to scripture read aloud by Rev. Richard Winn, Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, Rev. Walter Kimbrough, and Rev. Quincy Brown. Then, through creative, collaborative worship design and experiences, clergy and worship planners made preaching and worship plans for Advent 2019 through summer of 2020.
"We have been immersed in scripture reading, and worship and sermon planning," said Rev. Yvette Massey, Associate Director of Congregational Excellence, and an organizer of the retreat. "The participants have come away with AMAZING sermon ideas and worship plans!"
Speakers Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, Jason Moore, and Rev. Blair Zant inspired ideas for sermons, gave practical insights on how to utilize hospitality to enhance worship, and offered creative innovations. Kindling participants took a field trip on Monday to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights for sermon and worship inspiration.
Gerald Ricks and the 2019 Annual Conference house band led opening and closing worship, which included powerful messages from Rev. Vance Ross and Rev. Yvette Massey. The space was transformed with beautiful altar scapes by John Wesley Southall, a member of Central UMC.
Rev. Rhoda Howell, pastor of Mountain View UMC in Marietta, says she attended the retreat to be stretched, to find renewal, to stimulate ideas, and because she needed fellowship. She shared that she left feeling renewed in unexpected ways.
"It was a diverse group – age, gender, racially, culturally, contextually, geographically," said Howell. "It is always good to hear experiences from other contexts. Sometimes it opens our eyes, sometimes it opens our hearts, sometimes, it re-introduces us to the heart of our call. That was my experience this season."
"Hearing the lectionary texts read aloud brought to mind how I had addressed the texts in the past," she continued. "Our speaker stepped up and reminded us (me) that the heart of the Gospel, the ministry of the Gospel, is more than just words. The Gospel is Good News to the poor, the outsider, those poor in spirit. It is liberating and an act of liberation. It is a chance to offer love and justice to those who are struggling, defeated, and lost in our sinful and unjust world. It was an invitation to wade into the messiness of today’s world. I am called to preach deliverance and reconciliation. I am thankful for the fellowship, the time away, but especially for the push to return to the dangerous, messy work of the Gospel."
Would you like to take part in the next Kindling experience? Look for the spring dates for Kindling the Fire coming soon!