Holy Ground

Exodus 3 tells the familiar story of Moses seeing the burning bush, turning aside and encountering God face to face. It was, for Moses, both frightening and life changing. God gives Moses his marching orders and from that moment on, Moses has clarity about his future. After Moses gathers his wits about him, he asks God for a name and then tells Moses to mark the spot at Mount Horeb often.

Over the first 40 days of my life among you, I’ve had the privilege of visiting some of those places where many of you have turned aside, changed directions, and have had your heart strangely warmed.  Places like Lakeshore, and Beersheba Springs, McKendree Memorial, Interfaith Campus Ministry at UT Martin, Martin Methodist College along with many, many local churches where God’s presence is being made real every week. There is something about the place where you know, when you go there, you are home. These are the places I know to be holy ground.

In my own faith journey two places stand tall: Camp Lake Stephens and First United Methodist Church, New Albany, MS. Camp Lake Stephens was the place from the time I was 8 years old until I was 19 that I went every chance I was given. As the son of a United Methodist Minister, in many ways, Lake Stephens became my church. It was the one constant, familiar, holy place. It was the place where my call to ministry became clear. It was the place where I preached my first sermon. Holy ground it was.


Beersheba Springs United Methodist Assembly | tnumcamps.org

If we are going to live into the promise of Jesus Christ to do Greater Things, we must reclaim a culture of call across the United Methodist Church and, in particular, the Nashville Area. Lakeshore, Beersheba Springs Assembly, and Cedar Crest are places positioned to facilitate students and young people hearingthat call to turn aside, change directions, and follow Jesus Christ.

Sunday, I remembered the many ways in which my call was shaped by those places that made the ground on which I stood holy. I remembered, too, the countless persons across more than a decade of my life who modeled a life that was the Gospel. Today I give thanks for Bessie Conner, Ed Woodall, and John Moore. Without their leadership in my life, I might never have known that God might name, claim, and call one like me.

Have you seen Jesus my Lord? He’s here in plain view.
Take a look, open your eyes, He’ll show it to you.

Thanks be to God that we are making space for people to see, to hear, to respond to God’s call across the Nashville Area.


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  15. Rev. Gary McDaniel says:

    In my Irish upbringing we learned about these holy places where heaven earth meet, in the Celtic tradition these places are referred to as Anam Cara or thin places. As I grow in grace and the in dwelling Christ Anam Cara has changed for me from individual locations to everywhere that I am. I see that in you that Holy Ground is where ever you are because Jesus the Christ is ever present in your life.

  16. Eddie Bromley says:

    Thanks Bishop

  17. Birgitte T. French says:

    thank you for sharing and for sharing the song “Have you seen Jesus my Lord” it was one of my favorite songs growing up and yes it was guiding me in my decision for follow Jesus. looking forward to see you in the McKendree district

  18. James Ellington says:

    Lakeshore 2008 with Dr George Moss as my lay leader is my Holy Ground. I will always remember having God come into my life with all His glory. Lester’s Chapel with Dr. Joe and Becky Thornton are also very special and very uplifting to me. Praise God for these people and places in my life.

  19. sadlexicon says:

    Thanks for your words on holy ground, and thank you for mentioning Lakeshore in the conversation. On my best days, I realize how special it is to be able to set foot on this sacred place each day. Even on my worst, this place offers me great lessons and great peace. In my time at Lakeshore, I have seen powerful forces. I know they were in place long before me and will be long after I’m gone. Just this knowledge, and my great fortune at being able to spend a time here is enough to shape my life. I am glad to have you joining us, and hope you find many more holy places in your time here.

    • wtmcalilly says:

      Thanks, so much! I could tell by my time there that Lakeshore is a Holy Place. Look forward to coming back when I can stay longer!

  20. Thank you for the wonderful witness of Holy Ground. We, at Lakeshore on the Tennessee River (a River Runs through It), are committed as one of our seven core values to “Developing Christian Spiritual Leaders.” Camp is almost like a lab for leadership development when young persons are allowed to create and lead. Along with my camp and retreat leader friends in the Tennessee Conference, we are blessed to be called to these unique ministries.

    • wtmcalilly says:

      Gary, Hope you are doing better. This is a great way to align with one of my hopes for our Church–to raise up a new generation of leaders.

  21. Lenoir H. Culbertson says:

    Thank you for your comments today. I have always been fascinated by the requirement of Moses to take off his shoes when he was on holy ground. I wonder if that was a sign of reverence, or if it was God’s way of saying: slow down…take this in (you can not run away very far in the rocky wilderness if you don’t have shoes on) or maybe it was God saying, “I want you to feel this encounter fully…no barriers.” I wonder how many “holy” places we miss because we are so busy? I am glad you took the time to notice and allowed your life to be shaped by these places…and these people.

  22. prechaphil14 says:

    Bishop: There have been so many sacred places in my journey, that I can’t possibly name them all; but I do recall them and give God praise for each one. But, St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Memphis is responsible for most of my watershed experiences of faith: My baptism and confirmation; the Lay Witness Mission where I made Jesus Lord of my life and not just Savior at the age of 19; and then a few months later at a followup event where I answered the call to full time Christian Service. I had no idea what that meant at the time and I am still growing into it. And, I was married at that same altar at age 25, Forty years later we are still serving the Lord together. Sometimes, in spite of its shortcomings, the church can be Holy Ground!

    Pastor Phil

  23. Bishop: I didn’t ask for permission so I guess I should ask for forgiveness. I’ve been reprinting your blog in our weekly newsletter.