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Change focus this summer

Jerry DeVine and dog, Jingles focus on each other

The Rev. Jerry DeVine talks about how summer allows for a change of pace and new daily focus for clergy and laity alike.


REV. JERRY DEVINE

Superintendent, Mid-Michigan District

I answered my call to ministry at around age 23, heading off to finish college and then on to seminary. While in college my wife and I both worked several jobs to make ends meet. That work load, added to the study load, was a bit overwhelming at times. I needed a creative outlet so I took an elective summer class in photography.

The intent of the class was to help us learn how to focus! The desire was to give us the capacity to look beyond the normal patterns and routines in order to see in new ways. I learned new words that eventually became ministry tools: “macro, micro, wide angle, zoom, focus, frame”. Learning to focus became a very helpful life discipline.

Are you ready to shift your focus? At this time of year I often wonder who was most eager for the end of the school year, the teachers or the students. For the most part, each strives to do their best, to make a difference, and to make it to the finish line. I can imagine the deep exhale of relief, and the joyful inhale of time for renewal, rest and refreshment. Each is looking forward to a change of pace, a break from the intense focus of the last nine months. Changing what we focus on is an essential part of being renewed.

While summer holds its own responsibilities, it does allow for a change of pace and focus for many of us. For clergy it will hopefully mean fewer administrative meetings, planning sessions, and weekly activities. Perhaps it will offer time for a longer distance view for their ministry. For many it provides more evening times for focus with their family and friends. For district superintendents it is time for hoping that we have made it fruitfully through the appointive season, the multiple nights of late night driving, and finally the annual conference session. Then, we can focus on the bigger picture once again.

One of the side blessings of a summer break is that for many lay and clergy, youth and older adults, it also provides some space to get directly involved in some form of Volunteer in Mission experience. The shift of focus from managing and supervising into building transformative relationships in tangible mission outreach expands our minds and hearts. Multiple groups from local churches across the Michigan Conference are in the midst of finalizing details for summer mission trip experiences. Many of our local churches have shifted from their school year partnerships with the local schools in their communities, and into summer support programs for those same children and youth.

Perhaps this year it is especially important for each of us to take that deep exhale and inhale so that we can be present to the summer pace in our lives, ministries, and communities. We have come through a tense and difficult season going into and following the General Conference of 2019 last February. We have just moved through our own Michigan Annual Conference Session. Important and impactful decisions were made at each of those large connectional gatherings. Yet, as important as those gatherings have been, your focus on the ministry connections of your local church in your local community beckons you to that summer change of pace. I encourage you to breathe deeply, be deliberate about claiming your needed change of pace, and to be present to the grace of God that will come in the weeks and months ahead in your local community.

So that you might know, I am choosing a change of pace this summer as well.  I will be on an approved Renewal Leave from June 23 through August 10. One of the key processes I plan to use during renewal is photo journaling. I hope to purchase a new digital camera, then use images of rebirthing in nature and the world around to reflect on my own spiritual life at this point in my ministry career. Ironically, I just found several of the photos I had taken while back in that college course.  Providential timing.

I truly hope to experience the change of pace I am inviting you to embrace as well.

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