The ministerial institutes held in connection with the recent union conference sessions throughout the North American Division have been wonderfully blessed of God. Rarely have we witnessed such definite searching of heart and surrender of soul on the part of our workers. I attended six of these institutes. It was interesting to note that, although the general pattern was the same, yet each gathering was marked by its own unique features. These meetings were held in church buildings—three in our own churches and three in the churches of other denominations. Naturally the meetings differed in location, leadership, and the number of workers in attendance.
North Pacific Union.—Up in the North Pacific Union the Voice of Prophecy group were in attendance, and these brethren rendered excellent service. During the evenings in Portland we traced the stately steppings of Christ and His church through the centuries, and our workers there came under a deep conviction that the God of the ages is moving forward into the last great conflict, and as leaders in the church we must seek a special preparation to be ready for the challenge of this hour. As in all the other institutes, much time was spent studying the techniques of evangelism, pastoral work, and spiritual promotion. Such topics as preparation of the field, preparation of the church, building the evangelistic team, the place of music in evangelism, establishing evangelistic results, etc., became animated by wholesome discussion.
Pacific Union.—The San Francisco meeting in California was the largest of them all, and yet it proved to be an occasion of particular spiritual blessing. The beautiful and commodious building of the First Congregational Church in the downtown section provided wonderful opportunities for councils and committees. The minister of this church also joined in our consecration services. Each day saw the workers moving forward in a deep spiritual experience. Never shall we forget the sight when, with scarcely more than a hint, more than five hundred ministers moved forward as one man, and on their knees sealed the covenant with God to be more faithful shepherds of the flock. This came about in response to an appeal to lessen our tragic losses by apostasy. It is heartening to discover that our workers everywhere are reaching out for an experience with God, and pleading with Him for the outpouring of His Spirit.
What happened in this city of the West was repeated in a number of other places. We feel we have reached that time when the church is making ready for the final battle with the forces of sin. We know that when such consecration is experienced on the part of the leaders, something is going to happen for the advancement of God's cause.
Southwestern Union.—Then we think of the Southwestern Union. What a wonderful spirit of fellowship we experienced there! The meeting convened in our own church in Oklahoma City, and we thus had opportunity to gather around the Lord's table at the Lord's supper. That afternoon was an unforgettable occasion. When a group of workers, often widely separated from one another, sometimes in isolation, yet all the while bearing heavy burdens, can gather together and as members of the family of God cement their brotherhood around the emblems of the great sacrifice—that is something that has to be experienced to be understood. Scores of ministers expressed their regrets that such occasions seem to come so seldom.
Southern Union.—The Asheville meeting in North Carolina was another special occasion that seemed charged with the mighty power of the Spirit of God. We met in the First Methodist Church, a building raised up under the labors of Methodist pioneers more than a century ago in that part of the country, and the friendliness and wholehearted fellowship on the part of the pastor of the church provided a setting for the outpouring of the Spirit of God. Even our forthright discussions on the details of technique of church administration seemed to find a ready response in his heart, and at the conclusion of one of these discussions, when the brethren were presenting him with a gift book, with unusual courtesy and grace he remarked, "You sound more like Methodists today, and I feel very much at home. I note that our problems are also your problems."
Like the Congregational minister in San Francisco, this Methodist minister in Asheville extended an invitation to us to come back to his church again at some future time. The workers of the Asheville meeting left with the consciousness that they had met with God. We know that we can look forward to larger things, for such an experience on the part of the workers is always a prelude to larger service for God in the field.
Atlantic Union.—The New York meeting was held in our own church in Brooklyn. Like the others, it too was an intensive program, but the workers stayed by, determined to get all they could of inspiration and instruction. The field of visual evangelism was surveyed with particular interest in New York, and we were happy to have Richard Harris, of Washington Missionary College, and Arne Peterson, of New York State, in attendance. They rendered valuable help, and as the whole silk screen process was illustrated by stereopticon, it made our workers acquainted with the techniques by which poster advertising and the manufacture of visual aids are being accomplished.
Canadian Union.—Because of its geographical location, the Canadian field has been somewhat isolated, but we noticed an eagerness on the part of the workers there to get all the ' help possible. We met in Toronto, and this meeting was a rich spiritual experience. The weather was certainly far from inviting, but the Canadians seemed used to snow ; in fact, some had been bound under more than twenty feet of snow for many weeks at a time.
As we left the land of the North, and our workers began their long journeys homeward, it was with a deepening sense of the tremendous task and the mighty provisions of grace that are at the disposal of consecrated workers. It was a rich experience, and the expression of one of the field leaders concerning that work is but the echo of hundreds of others : "It was an outstanding meeting, and the blessing of the Lord was much in evidence. . . . Every worker present would testify to that."
As we opened up the technical fields of successful evangelism, there was an earnestness on the part of all to become more efficient in their service. It is heartening to note that where conditions have not permitted large city evangelism, the workers have nevertheless developed into strong personal soul winners. Miss Kleuser rendered valuable service to our Bible instructors and ministers' wives, leading out in their discussions twice daily. M. K. Eckenroth and G. E. Vandeman, who have recently joined the Association staff, gave much appreciated help in the institutes they attended. Some excellent presentations were made by our workers at the various meetings, and these will appear in this and succeeding issues of THE MINISTRY.
Yes, these meetings are in the past, but the influence of fellowship, inspiration, and consecration will be seen in the future. Everywhere God's workers are coming into line, manifesting an eagerness to measure up to His standards in both life and service. Truly a new day has dawned, a day of challenge, but also a day of glorious opportunity, and the workers of the North American Division are moving forward under God for the climaxing last movements which will bring the consummation of the hopes of all the ages. It is our privilege "to follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain." Hosea 6:3.
What we are seeing is the beginning of the latter rain. God has set His hand to finish His work. May the Lord keep us in an attitude of heart and mind where He can continually lead us into greater experiences under the guidance of His Spirit.