The gentle hum of summer life was altered at Burman University during the first weekend of July as hundreds gathered on the school campus in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada. It began weeks and months out as the organizing team had been preparing for what would soon be the arrival of 300 pastors from across the country, with visitors totaling 500 people, including families, presenters, and exhibitors for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada (SDACC) Ministerial Summit.
Once volunteers achieved the organizational feat of getting everyone to campus safely, every moment after that was packed with worship, seminars, great sermons, and laughs. The tireless volunteers were always making sure everything was a go — meals, linens, classrooms, and even the gym for precious moments of recreation and socializing. And other crucial hands made sure the campus was looking its best. Pastors were treated to gorgeous gifts as we registered. A well-timed Burman jacket ended up being perfect for a surprisingly cool summer day in Alberta, by far everyone’s favorite gift.
As we all poured into the College Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church sanctuary, the praise team opened every gathering and led us to pour our hearts out in song. A church full of pastors who love to serve and spend their lives doing for others lifted their voices in worship. In these moments, we felt the presence of God restoring and empowering us.
Throughout our time, we attendees were encouraged by presenters who challenged us, spoke truth, and reminded us of the good and gracious God we serve. Some highlights of the presentations were SDACC president Paul Lewellyn challenging us to keep striking our bows in faith and Elizabeth Talbot, Jesus 101 speaker/director, reminding us that Jesus wins, the other guy loses, so we need to pick who we will stand with. Ivan Williams, Ministerial Association director of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America (NAD), left us with the final charge and prayed for all the ministers in Canada.
Every presenter and workshop facilitator brought something special, giving us practical tools for ministry and reminding us that what we do matters. The fun and delight of the exhibitors’ hall filled Burman’s new library with energy and a little more noise than during finals; meanwhile, connections for ministry were made, and some great-looking professional headshots were taken.
A highlight for me was gathering with fellow female pastors in my home, a few blocks from campus. We shared a meal, put faces to names, prayed together, exchanged hugs, and left as friends.
This feeling of being surrounded by friends was repeated over and over. Everywhere you went, pastors could be seen in groups or pairs, laughing, praying, and reminiscing as we wondered, How long has it been, friend? Classmate? Colleague? All of us wished one another well, encouraging one another to take care of ourselves and our families and stay faithful to the calling.
“The SDACC Ministerial Summit was refreshing, educational, and empowering!” Jordane Smith, a pastor, said. “The worship was inspiring, the workshops were leading-edge, but the community was the aspect that truly made our gathering a summit.”
As I have the privilege of serving on the campus of Burman University, I get to stay here and enjoy the memories we created, worship in the same sanctuary, and study in the library. But I will hold close to my heart the feeling of being surrounded by so many people who understand the calling of pastoral ministry and are committed to following the way of Jesus. Until we meet again, may we all have the courage to continue.