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2022 Clergy Conference

On Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30, 2022, Congregation of the Messiah hosted the 2022 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 The Church of the Prince of Peace were Metropolitan Mar Uzziah bar Evyon, Sis. Exie Schlossberg and Fr. Jeff LeFleur; 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 Hill of Refuge Family Church in South Korea were Bishop Ben and Sis. Liz Torrey; and from Congregation of the Messiah were Deacon Ralph Manfredi, Bishop Emeritus Alex and Sis. Alice McCullough, and Yvonne Flores and I (Bishop David Flores).

Welcome Address by Bishop David Flores

The theme fo the conference was Reaching Our Culture for Today and the scriptures were taken from 1 Corinthians 15:58- Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain as well as Galatians 6:9- So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

On Friday night, I reported that a significant cultural shift had taken place in American society. I warned that if we as pastors do not move quickly to address this issue, it could gain permanence in our respective ecclesial communities. This shift is significant and entails a significant response to curtail its effects. What is the shift that is taking place? It is reported that less than half of all church members are attending church[1]. For over fifty years, church attendance among members have hovered around 70% but just prior to the Covid -19 pandemic, the attendance plunged below 70%. Even after people were told the Covid restrictions were lifted, people still have not returned. As a result, many pastors have resigned and retired prematurely mostly because people are not returning. According to Barna and other research groups, pastors who were surveyed reported that stress, loneliness and political division are the three main reasons. When Barna first reported on a sharp increase in pastoral burnout, and it confirmed the growing number of pastors who were considering resignation—up 13 percentage points from 29 percent in January 2021.[2]

I reminded our brothers and sisters that this weekend was a time when we could find advise, direction, accountability, healing, as well as comradery and a hand up to press on to the goal for which Christ Jesus took hold of you us. Through the years, this team of clergy has demonstrated faithfulness and will continue to do so.

Morning Devotion by Fr. Ed Campolongo

Fr. Ed gave the morning devotion where he shared scriptures and testimonies about pressing on in faith to do the work we were called to do.

How to Reach Our Culture Today by Fr. Jeff LeFleur

Fr. Jeff LeFleur spoke on how do we Reach Our Culture Today. Fr. Jeff shared that he was given a book by Bishop Ben Torrey that helped him to see that what was key in reaching people was prayer. This he learned after reading various testimonies of revival movements that were launched through prayer. One such example was the prayer meeting rival of 1857-1859 which took place on Fulton Street in New York City. The story begins with Jeremiah Lanphier a business in NYC was converted at Charles Finney’s Broadway Tabernacle Church in Manhattan in 1842. Twenty years later he took on a job at the North Dutch Church Fulton Street. He traded his big business salary to be a missionary with the church at less than $1,000 per year. In 1857, Jeremiah set to hold a prayer meeting at Wednesday at noon. He passed out flyers and spread the news. At noon no one showed up until 12:30 p.m. when the first businessman showed up for prayer. At total of six showed up. In a short time, 3,000 people started to show up to his meetings.

Fr. Jeff reminded us that all revivals seem to have started through organized and intentional prayer meetings. In order for us to reach our culture today, it is not so much as marketing techniques but mainly gather local people to pray. Bishop Ben shared that this message spoke to him and reminded him of the importance of prayer. Fr. Ed likewise was encouraged by the message and shared that more of this story can be found in Talbot W. Chambers’ book, The New York City Noon Prayer Meeting.

Metropolitan’s Address

Following a time of reflection, Metropolitan Bertram Schlossberg shared a message to the clergy that our world is changing, “Right before our very eyes,” just as he had warned before. Killing of babies is being justified. Transgender ideologies are taking over governments and foundations of our educational systems. People are afraid to be different. Right now the world is filled with the hatred of Jesus and His ways. People question when you speak up against the evil, “Who made you leader of the church.” Bishop Bert said, “Your duties are to the children of your church; to speak out the truth no matter what. What are missing are people standing shoulder to shoulder against these movements, most especially in the church.

Evil is being done in the name of goodness and morality. Abortions are being done in the name of women’s rights. Remember good fruit comes from good men. Recognize what God is wishing in and through people and stand along side and be with them and they with you. There will be people you will be shoulder to shoulders with. They will be right around you. Remember the Lord is our salvation not us therefore trust him and pray as a church. How can we open up prayer in our churches? Are you starting churches? Start off with prayer meetings.

Finding Encouragement to Push On by Bishop Bill Woodson

After a wonderful time of lunch and fellowship, Bishop Bill Woodson shared a message of encouragement for clergy where he shared some of things to watch for as clergy to avoid burnout.

Bishop Bill shared that when we press on in ministry remember that it is all about Jesus. He starts the fire in us towards ministry. God plants His concerns on our hearts. The Bishop shared that when he first sensed that God was calling him to start a church, he felt restless and anxious and he prayed, “Lord, if you are taking us to scary places, take care of our family which the Lord did.

Bishop Bill encouraged the clergy to get up every morning sit down on the inside, don’t say what you want but allow the Lord to speak. He also asked if we are honoring the Sabbath with the rest that we need. The Lord rested on the seventh day of creation. Should we not rest as well? Jesus went to solitary places to pray and he also rested. Bishop Bill also shared that weariness is what got King David into trouble. His sin cost him his joy and connection with God. When he confessed his sin, joy returned to him.

The Bishop also shared about Jeremiah’s complaining. Complaining puts out the fire within you. Instead pray prayers of affirmation and meditate on God’s goodness and love. Like Moses you will have rebellious people in your church. Don’t complain. Be gracious and don’t burn bridges.

Special Thanks

Thanks to the Church of the New Covenant for leading us in songs of worship.

A special thanks to Junkichi Hayashi and his wife Annie for preparing meals; Dawn Galente for cooking and serving; and Yvonne Flores for housing the clergy. Thank you to all who covered us in prayer this weekend and we look forward to gathering again at next year’s conference.

By Bishop David Flores

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