Clarence’s Clarion Call

     by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister

Snow blanketed the cornfields and crowned the spruce trees surrounding the St. Benedict Center, Schuyler, Nebraska. The snow crunched under our feet as we braved the bitter cold of the quarter-mile walk to Christ the King Priory for prayers and meals. An enormous orange full moon graced our return walk to the Center after supper.

What a delight to eat sumptuous meals without conversation with six to eight robed monks! Their white cloth napkins were tucked in under the chin like giant neckties. This monastery was founded in the 1930s by an Abbey in Germany in order to raise funds for Benedictine mission work around the world. The Hitler regime was preventing the raising of funds at home.

My wife, Amanda, and I had marked out the first week in February for a time of spiritual retreat. It is something I highly recommend to pastors and have done too little myself. The morning was given to being with God in prayer, song, silence, and Scripture. The afternoon included a nap, a walk of fifteen prayer stations on a drifted hilltop, journaling, and reading. The evening was a time of sharing journal entries and reflections from our readings. We pretty much disconnected from the digital world and reconnected with God and each other.

“Joy in Christ” has been my closing greeting for most of my written communication in the six years as Conference Minister. I wanted to enter into its meaning, and so I chose the book of Philippians as one of my companions for the retreat. “Joy” is named at least thirteen times in this little four-chapter book. Six times it is the church’s joy and seven times it refers to the Apostle Paul’s joy.

I was reminded that this joy was not dependent on pleasant life circumstances. The Apostle Paul was under arrest, imprisoned, and not at all sure if he would live or die. Paul was also distressed by theological (3:2-4) and personal conflict (1:15-18; 4:2-3) in the church. As Conference Minister, I recognize these robbers of joy.

So where does abiding joy come from? With Paul I find joy in the confidence that God is going to complete God’s salvation work in every person and in every church (1:6). It is God’s work. I get to share in some elements of this work, but it is not dependent on my successful initiatives.

I find joy in Western District Conference (WDC) churches and pastors proclaiming Jesus Christ as the source and model of salvation. We may not all do it from the best motives or in the best ways, but it is happening. “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (1:15-18).

I experience joy in praying for the churches and pastors of WDC. God is present; God hears prayer; God grants peace, so why not rejoice? “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4).