by Jay Therrell
September 27, 2022
Dear WCA Family,
“The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’” -Ezekiel 37:1-3a
As I write this, I’m sitting in the airport in Nashville, Tennessee having just finished attending the New Room Conference put on by Seedbed. I began attending New Room many years ago and it has become a part of my annual spiritual rhythm. It is one of the places where my soul is enriched and quickened. I look forward to it every year.
This year was different. It wasn’t different in a negative way. This year was different because so many that I encountered were arriving at New Room beaten up and weary. Serving in ministry is never an easy job. Ministry means you’re meeting brokenness at its point of need and offering that brokenness the only thing that saves: Jesus. It’s sacred work that is also hard.
On top of the normal difficulties of ministry, however, many of my fellow New Room attendees were heavily burdened by the present denominational drama inside The United Methodist Church. It didn’t matter if you were clergy or laity, almost everyone I talked to was carrying the weightiness of leading their faith community through the hard process of disaffiliation. They had scars. Often those scars were caused by people they thought were friends. They felt abused and betrayed by people who were in supervision above them. They felt fragile and exhausted because they were absorbing the stress of so many in their churches.
As we began to sing our first worship songs at New Room, I looked around me and I could feel that I was in a valley full of bones.
“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” -Ezekiel 37:4-6
As the band finished our first time of singing, Dr. David Thomas spoke, and he named the elephant in the room. He acknowledged that so many in the room were in the midst of a difficult season of denominational life. He shared that the next 48 hours would focus on healing and commissioning. I could feel the bones in the room starting to come together.
I attended a mini-course the next day led by the Rev. Jim Cymbala, senior pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, and the moments of spontaneous prayer and worship that broke out felt like a flood of the Holy Spirit had begun. By the time the course was over, several hundred people were embracing one another, praying over each other, and assuring one another that in the name of Jesus, everything would be okay. The breath of the Holy Spirit was palpable.
“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.” -Ezekiel 37:9-10
I’m leaving important moments out, but on the final day, Carole Ward of Favor International spoke, and, in my humble opinion, full-on revival broke out. As she concluded her talk, waves of people began coming forward for prayer. So many came forward, there was no room to move. People just began standing and praying over one another in their seats. Dry bones had come to life. They were standing on their feet. They had become a vast army. Denominational leaders and overseers were called forward for prayer and we knelt, as young people laid hands on us and prayed.
The band spontaneously broke into Hillsong Worship’s, What a Beautiful Name. We began singing:
Death could not hold You, the veil tore before You You silence the boast of sin and grave The heavens are roaring the praise of Your glory For You are raised to life again You have no rival, You have no equal Now and forever God You reign Yours is the kingdom, Yours is the glory Yours is the Name above all Names
What a powerful Name it is, what a powerful Name it is The Name of Jesus Christ my King What a powerful Name it is, nothing can stand against What a powerful Name it is, the Name of Jesus
Why do I share all of this? It’s not to be a commercial for New Room. I share it first and foremost to give God glory. His presence in our midst brought dry and weary bones to life. His Holy Spirit breathed life into where it had almost been snuffed out. People left as an army ready to continue the fight and see it through to the end. Praise God!
I also share it to say to those who were not present at New Room that I know these days are hard. I know they are fatiguing. I know you are leading churches through decisions you never thought you’d have to make.
God sees you. God sees you and He loves you! My friend, J.D. Walt, likes to say the opposite of exhaustion is not rest. It’s wholeheartedness. I want to call on our WCA family to find ways to experience God wholeheartedly. Perhaps it means taking a spiritual retreat. It might mean worshipping with a church where you don’t have to be responsible for the service and just letting everything go, crying out to God, and feeling His restoring presence. Only you know how you and God commune best. Please find a way to pursue Him.
We have come far, but we still have a ways to travel. We cannot give what we don’t have. If our bones are dry, only the Holy Spirit can breathe life into them. I experienced that with over 3,000 people over the last 48 hours. I pray you will actively seek ways to experience that, too. We need you to be strong and filled with the Holy Spirit to help us get across the finish line.
If I or anyone in the WCA can help, I trust you will let us know.
All God’s love,
The Rev. Jay Therrell is the president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.
East Ohio WCA is not affiliated with the East Ohio UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.
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