GATLINBURG, Tenn. (March 17, 2016) -- In a hotel conference room in Gatlinburg, 14 members of the Holston Cabinet are working this week to appoint about 100 pastors to new locations for the upcoming year.
The district superintendents and bishop are not alone. They are supported with prayers from lay members who crafted and sent “pocket prayer shawls” as tangible reminders.
“The significance of the gift is not the cloth or thread or beads that it is made of,” said Del Holley, Holston Conference lay leader. “The significance of the gift is what it represents.”
Each spring, the Holston cabinet joins other cabinets across the denomination in the challenge of matching clergy to churches. For pastors who are moving this year, the relocations are effective July 1.
The Board of Laity had already decided to ask Holston churches to create pocket prayer shawls – a mini version of shawls often woven for shut-ins or patients – for all 1,500 participants of Annual Conference this June. However, in the days before “appointment-making week” in Gatlinburg, lay members saw an opportunity to create the first pocket-size shawls for the Cabinet as they faced their “discernment process,” Holley said.
“The emails kept coming,” Holley said, describing how he heard from church members who wanted to make sure the Cabinet knew they were bathed in prayer. “One district lay leader said she would make 14 pocket prayer shawls. Another said she would crochet as many as she could and deliver them to her district superintendent.”
The pocket shawls vary in appearance. Knoxville District Superintendent Nathan Malone received a “Big Orange” prayer cloth with tassels. Morristown District Superintendent Tom Ballard received a pocket shawl with plastic beads spelling “discernment." All were created with love, Holley said.
“They represent a gift of time and willingness to pause the busy-ness of our week to create a tangible reminder that we work together with you as partners in ministry,” he said.
The district superintendents said they are keeping the pocket prayer shawls with them as they work and expressed gratitude for prayers lifted up this week.
“Thanks for sharing this affirmation that we, all of us, lay and clergy, are part of something bigger than ourselves,” Ballard said.
“We all appreciate your prayers and treasure the privilege to minister alongside you,” said the Rev. Joe Green, Cleveland District superintendent.
“We will need the prayers and I pray the discernment of God will flow through the room and through us as we confer,” said the Rev. Jeff Wright, Big Stone Gap District superintendent.
“We invite Holston congregations to offer a tangible symbol of their prayers for all lay and clergy members of the Annual Conference by creating and consecrating their own prayer cloths and sending them to be distributed at Lake Junaluska,” he said.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.