Pastors On Sabbatical Find 'Oasis' at EMS

by Laura Lehman Amstutz

HARRISONBURG, Va. - Eastern Mennonite Seminary is offering pastors a unique "getaway" to focus on intentional prayer and reflection through the Oasis program, part of the Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation (SISF) at EMS, held June 15-26 this year.

Oasis participants come to campus for one or both weeks of the institute. There, they receive spiritual direction from professors, take part in classroom discussions on topics of prayer, discernment, worship and spiritual direction and participate in worship and retreat time with other students.

This year's Oasis participants included Randy Murray, pastor of Martins Mennonite Church, Orrville, Ohio, and Gerald Garber, pastor of Willow Street (PA) Mennonite Church.

Willard Swartley
The Oasis program give pastors space for quiet reflection and guided prayer time.

Murray, who committed two weeks of his summer sabbatical to the Oasis program, said, "The point of Oasis for me was to find a place and space to draw near to God and find God drawing near to me. And the Lord delivered in a surprising way!"

Murray chose an open-ended option for his Oasis experience. He described how another pastor's sabbatical experience, intentional time with two spiritual guides, the ability to sit in on the class, "Spiritual Disciplines for the Spiritual Companion" and the experience of community, all enhanced his personal reflection and prayer time.

"Beginning sabbatical for me was an experience of entering the wilderness with numerous fears and apprehensions," Murray said. "However, I didn't have to step far into this wilderness to find an oasis spread before me."

The Oasis program began in 2004 as an independent study space during SISF. Often, participants choose to sit in on a class or two offered during SISF, although this isn't required. The Oasis experience is designed by the individual with guidance from EMS faculty members.

"The Oasis program is unique because ministers who step aside from active ministry for rest and renewal receive personal guidance in the form of spiritual direction and mentoring, suggestions for spiritual reading and assistance in discernment for themselves and for ministry engagement,"
said Wendy Miller, SISF director.

For more information on the Oasis program or the Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation, contact the seminary admissions office at semadmiss@emu.edu, or 540-432-4257.

Posted 7/28/09