From the Bishop
A Covenant for Spiritual Disciplines
Bishop Young Jin Cho
May the grace and peace from our God be with you.
Now, it is September. The vacation season is over. Children are going back to school, and our life rhythm is returning to a normal season. We are getting busier. The choir members start singing anthems again in worship services, and Sunday school classes begin their new journeys. The churches will start preparing for their Charge Conferences. Lord, have mercy on us!
As I shared in my article last month, the “Covenant for Spiritual Disciplines” has been developed, and this fall we will invite clergy and laity to prayerfully consider this covenant.
Last July the team members who prepared the Bishop’s Convocation on Prayer got together and had a time to evaluate and review the last convocation and to share their ideas for the next convocation. These team members are from the Prayer Team of the Bishop’s Steering Team for All Things New – Equipping Vital Congregations, conference Board of Discipleship and the Kindred Project (association of persons who seek to encourage Wesleyan contemplative practice, living and ministry). In this meeting we also discussed how to keep on fanning the flame of prayer in our conference. We assigned a couple of members to draft a “Covenant for Spiritual Disciplines.”
The Cabinet meeting in July also discussed how to follow up the Annual Conference theme, “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.” We did not want to forget this theme when the Annual Conference was over. The Cabinet reviewed the “Covenant for Spiritual Disciplines” and decided to invite the churches to join this covenant during Charge Conference season this fall.
I deeply appreciate the team members who have prepared this covenant and the Cabinet for keeping on working to strengthen the spiritual foundation of our mission and ministries. I did not want the Annual Conference theme, “Lord, Teach us to Pray” to become a one-time emphasis and be forgotten. We talked about prayer during the Annual Conference, and I want all of us to fan this flame of prayer throughout the year. I want every local church to take this precious spiritual discipline seriously and move toward strengthening our prayer life. I prayed that our gathering in Hampton would be a starting point to spread the culture of prayer to the churches in the Virginia Conference.
The “Covenant for Spiritual Disciplines” begins with this introduction:
Prayer is essential to sustain our faith. Jesus modeled a life of prayer that established the DNA for the Christian Wesleyan heritage of prayer. Bishop Cho has envisioned spending his episcopacy in the Virginia Conference creating a culture of prayer. In his episcopal address at Annual Conference, he established a goal for at least 10% of the clergy of the Virginia Conference to engage in spiritual disciplines for one hour each day and for 10% of Virginia Conference churches to become a Prayer Covenant Congregation.
Then, the covenant extends the following invitation to clergy and laity:
Virginia Conference clergy and laity are invited to:
Engage “one hour daily” in spiritual disciplines: fasting, intercessory prayer, Lectio Divina (sacred or spiritual reading), centering prayer, breath prayer, contemplative prayer, Tongsung Kido prayer, a service of common prayer, morning midday or evening prayers, etc.
Congregations are invited to become a Prayer Covenant Congregation by:
1. Having at least one weekly prayer group that will include weekly prayers for the renewal and revival of their congregation, the Virginia Conference, and The United Methodist Church.
2. Offering at least one class on prayer annually.
3. Participating in conference or district prayer equipping (training) events.
4. Moving toward at least 10% of the laity practicing a “one hour daily” spiritual discipline.
5. Indicating commitment to this covenant through approval by the Church Council.
After prayerful discernment, our congregation has decided to become a Prayer Covenant Congregation by having at least one weekly prayer group, offer at least one class on prayer annually, participate in Conference prayer equipping events and move toward at least 10% of our members practicing “one hour daily” spiritual disciplines.
I think this will be a great beginning for our new future. I am very excited about the great things our God will do when we humbly open ourselves to God. I want all leaders of our churches, clergy and laity together, to pray about this invitation and to respond positively. As I said in our Annual Conference, “If you discern that joining this covenant may be God’s will, please say, ‘Yes.’ If you do not discern that way, please say, ‘No.’” Thank you.
Young Jin Cho