by Joe Geary
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! Psalm 133:1 NRSV
Bishop McAlilly and leaders from the Nashville Episcopal Area met with their counterparts in Reynosa, Mexico, September 2-4, for an inter-conference and international retreat to plan ministry on both sides of the border. Participating from our region were the Bishop, Area Cabinet, Chairperson of the Area Pacto (covenant) Committee, Rev. Jim Clardy and the CMT Director of the Memphis Annual Conference, Rev. Tom Hazelwood. The theme of the event was taken from the Gospel of John that “they all might become one.”
At the Piedro Angular Campomento (Cornerstone Camp) in Reynosa, we were joined by Bishop Raul Garcia de Ochoa and the Cabinet of the Conferencia Oriental Anual (Eastern Mexico Annual Conference). Also in attendance were Rev. Roberto Gomez Reyes, the liaison for the Pacto to the Nashville Episcopal Area and Mr. Willie Berman who is the General Board of Global Ministries missionary assigned to minister along the corridor bordering the Rio Grande river.
Each Bishop introduced the participants from their respective areas. Opening worship sought the presence of the Holy Spirit to be with us during the retreat. Tables were made up of equal representation from both nations. The event continued with episcopal leaders presenting the flags of our countries. Each contingent then recited pledges of allegiance and sang national anthems.
The retreat continued with reports from both sides touting the progress of our covenant relationship and where each aspect stood in its development. Throughout the three days, worship was interwoven in the schedule. The three Annual Conferences rotated worship leaders, preachers and those offering devotions, testimonies and song. Language and cultural barriers faded away as strangers became colleagues and then brothers and sisters in Christ. Our time was concluded with a powerful celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
The bulk of our retreat experience was hearing a description of the 27 districts of the three Annual Conferences. Each District Superintendent gave a brief summation of their district including opportunities for mission and ministry. On Tuesday evening, Bishops McAlilly and Garcia asked Superintendents to identify a colleague from the opposite nation. Throughout the experience of the retreat, the Holy Spirit was already building fellowship and affinity amongst the cohort.
Having been paired up as partners, the Superintendents then identified priorities in each district for mutual support. Advance teams will visit one another’s districts in the next few months and then teams will go and work over the coming years. Opportunities exist for local churches to have a sister local church and the same for campus ministries or camping and retreat centers, hospitals and homes.
If you would like to know more, please contact your District Superintendent or Conference CMT Director to express interest and support.