By Rev. Dr. Kimberly Reisman
In March the Order of the FLAME gathered at Epworth by the Sea for its annual week of Holy Spirit inspired worship and learning. What a blessed time!
As always, our goal at the FLAME gathering is to plant the DNA of evangelism into young leaders so they see themselves appointed not only to their local congregations, but to their entire communities – reaching out in holistic ways to their neighborhoods and beyond. We had outstanding teachers help us explore preaching, teaching the bible, reaching out to the “other” in our contexts, racial reconciliation, and spiritual healing – to name just a few of the topics covered.
The teaching and worship at our FLAME gatherings is always extremely rich and meaningful. And yet, I am always most encouraged by the relationships that form as people connect with each other in a deep and lasting way. This year was no exception. I was particularly encouraged when I met Micah, an AMEZ pastor from Alabama who arrived quite worn out from the demands of his ministry. As he sat at his table awaiting the beginning of the first session, Keith, a UMC pastor from Virginia sat next to him.
Keith is a member of the FLAME who chose to return this year. He wasn’t sure why he decided to come, but the Holy Spirit kept nudging him. When he had attended the FLAME several years ago, he had felt exhausted from ministry and had been contemplating giving it up, but the FLAME gathering had reenergized him in a powerful way. As he traveled to Epworth, he felt that his experience might be part of why he needed to be there.
Turns out he was exactly right. As Micah and Keith shared and prayed together, they were able to connect in a way that only the Spirit can accomplish, and both left renewed, refreshed and revitalized for ministry.
The Order of the FLAME is a unique gathering in that regard – a boundary breaking gathering where denominational lines, racial and ethnic barriers, and cultural obstacles all fade in the presence of the Holy Spirit. A gathering where leaders who might otherwise have never met, are able to minister to each other, learn from each other, and partner with each other for the glory of God and the spreading of the Good News.
We received many blessings during the 2020 Order of the FLAME and even welcomed a fourth “generation” leader whose father and three brothers are also members. We’re grateful for the way God, year after year, brings a new diversity of people to Epworth by the Sea, binding us together through our faith in Jesus Christ, shaping us into a reconciled people joined together by our commitment to being mission evangelists in our communities, and empowering us as a Holy Spirit led people linked together by our willingness to become channels of God’s prevenient grace to all people.
Planning for FLAME 2021 is already underway. We will gather March 15-19, 2021 on St. Simons Island, Georgia. If you’re a member of the Order of the FLAME, we encourage you to make plans join us and to nominate a promising young leader to participate in this transformative experience.