On the weekend of November 9-10, elders and wives – along with prospective elders and wives – gathered in Hartford, Connecticut, from all across New York, New Jersey and New England. With over 35 couples in attendance, the fellowship was great, the unity was refreshing and the lessons were inspirational.
In now its fifth year of existence, this particular workshop has grown from a very small number of men only to a large gathering of brothers and sisters that filled the basement of the Greater Hartford Church of Christ building at the Friday night kick-off dinner.
Through the traffic and the earlier arriving darkness, the couples drove to a catered meal from Olive Garden. Usually Clarence Webster begins these retreats with his famous barbeque, but recent surgery switched those plans. We are just grateful Clarence and Laura and so many were able to attend.
Following the fantastic feast, introductions were made. Each couple was asked to introduce their spouse with an adjective paralleling the letter in his or her first name. Once the adjective was used, the word could no longer be repeated. This provided much humor, particularly for the “l” and “j” names. Mike Fix called his wife, Laura, “lucky” and other spouses were everything from “Ostentacious Olivia” to “Wild Walter” and beyond.
Wyndham Shaw shared the evening devotional thought. Wyndham and Jeanie have been doing quite a bit of traveling around encouraging and helping to raise up elderships in the International Churches of Christ. They have particularly been going over to Europe and are so thrilled with the progress and maturity being made in several of those churches.
The Saturday morning program began at 9 AM and started with a time of singing and prayer. The theme for the song service was “songs we don’t normally sing.” God provided us with new, never-before-heard renditions like “Jesus on the Main Line” and older ones including “Blest Be the Tie” and “The Lord’s My Shepherd.”
Walter and Kim Evans of the Greater Phladelphia Church of Christ were the keynote speakers of the day. Their first class was split men and women and their second one was together. The focus of their side of shepherding was helping our family groups be what they can be for God. Their humor, deep convictions and numerous stories of laying their lives down in Philadelphia and beyond increased both our faith and vision.
The last session of the day was taught by Phil Arsenault from Boston on the “Youth and Family Ministry.” Phil’s own passion for his kids and all the next generation of disciples is overwhelming. We were all challenged to call the parents higher in this most noble ambition – passing on the good news through our families.
At 3 pm, the closing song – “There is a God” – rang out. More fellowship ensued and then off to our cities we went. The ligaments of love built from this weekend and its predecessors remind of us of the common bond and battle we fight in together.
Not only had we spent a weekend together and been reminded of the shepherds we should be, but mostly we were pointed back to the perfect and eternal Shepherd of our souls.