On Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1, 2020, Congregation of the Messiah hosted the 2020 Syro-Chaldean Church of North America Clergy Conference. It was with great pleasure we were able to be with our fellow clergy from around the world. Representing Emmanuel Family Church were Metropolitan Mar Uzziah bar Evyon and Sis. Exie Schlossberg; from the Church of the New Covenant were Bishop Bill and Sis. Laura Woodson, and Fr. Tom and Sis. Corinne Miller; from the Church of the Risen Savior was Fr. Ed Campolongo; from the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System was Chief of Chaplains, Fr. Paul Dordal; from the Oratory of the Little Way were former Directors Bishop Emeritus Alex and Sis. Alice McCullough; from the Hill of Refuge Family Church in South Korea were Bishop Ben and Sis. Liz Torrey and from Congregation of the Messiah were Deacon Semu and Jennifer Serunjogi; and Deacon Ralph Manfredi; and Yvonne Flores and I (Bishop David Flores). Excused were Fr. Jeff and Charisma LeFleur who we missed, and we trust they will be with us next year. Also, in attendance were postulant Jae Lee and his wife Soo.
There was a powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit throughout the clergy conference wherein God’s comfort, healing and renewal of our call were experienced. The theme for this year’s conference was, "The Call and Suffering for the Church." On Friday night, the conference opened with the Church of New Covenant leading us in Spirit-filled songs of praise followed by Bishop Bill Woodson leading the clergy in a personal ministry time of prayer. On Saturday, we opened with morning devotions through scripture readings led by Deacon Semu Serunjogi. Mar Uzziah bar Evyon spoke on the Prophet Jeremiah’s call to proclaim the message of repentance to the people of his day in spite of his relative youth. God had assured Jeremiah that He would be with him in this work. When God gave Jeremiah the assurance and anointed him, He was also letting Him know that He would be with him and within him. Likewise, as Jesus commissioned His Apostles to go out and make disciples of all nations, Jesus informed them that He would be with them. This meant that the fullness of the Trinity would be with the Apostles and their subsequent followers in the work of the Gospel. In addition, Jesus prayed that the believers would likewise be in Jesus and the Father; all this being the work of the Holy Spirit. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21, NIV). As Metran Mar Uzziah bar Evyon stated, “God is not only bringing us into Him, but also the Trinity is coming into us even as we share in His sufferings in doing the work He has called us to do.”
I was blessed to continue speaking on the theme of Christian suffering. Found in the writings of both Apostles Paul and Peter, the idea of Christians suffering should not surprise us but we should know that it is a part of our call. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 12:4). I shared that there are three salvific aspects of Christian suffering: One, that its purpose is to help others by bringing salvation to them and meet pressing needs; Two, suffering is for the perfecting of our faith that is, God uses suffering to sanctify the Christian soul; and Three, that it exemplifies both the suffering/death of Christ as well as, the power of resurrection thereby serving as a banner in proclaiming the message of the Gospel.
After the talks, we gave ministry reports and spent time in prayer for one another. Bishop Ben Torrey celebrated the Eucharist (Qurbana) with great reverence unto the Lord for the closing of the event.
Please continue to pray for all our clergy and the ministries entrusted to them. A special thanks to Junkichi Hayashi and his wife Annie for preparing meals; Dawn Galente for cooking and serving; Maritza Vega for pre-event cleaning; June Spinner for housing the clergy and Yvonne Flores for child care. We thank them all for providing a warm loving environment. Thank you all who covered us in prayer this weekend and we look forward to gathering again at next year’s conference.