City Pastors Switch Pulpits for Solitude, Renewal

MT. BETHEL, Pa. – When city folk want a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city and the laundry list of demands from daily life they come to the quiet hills of Pennsylvania. For New York pastors, finding renewal is also as simple as going back to the basics.

"Silence and solitude are the two most difficult spiritual disciplines in the West," Pete Scazerro, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, told a crowd of 300 New York church leaders who kicked off their annual prayer retreat at Mt. Bethel, Pa., on Monday.

As a pastor himself, Scazerro said there were times he was so busy fulfilling the demands of his position that it was hard for him to find time alone with God. He could be preparing a sermon for hours and still not think about God, he said to acknowledging grunts and chuckles.

"We're not a reflective people, we are a doing," said Scazerro to the church leaders. "But unless we get to God, we cannot send a life raft to our church."

Placing God in the center again has be done with a conscious effort, said the author, who challenged the leaders to re-incorporate a "trellis" or "rule of life" such as Scripture, Sabbath, or play and recreation into their spiritual journey.

He admitted jokingly that for leaders to relax is as hard as "getting off crack."

But for three days, that's what New York pastors are called to do at the 17th annual Pastors' Prayer Summit, sponsored by Concerts of Prayer Greater New York (COPGNY), an umbrella organization for pastors, church leaders and ministry leaders within the tri-state region.

"It's a time of profound spiritual renewal for leaders who have extraordinary responsibilities," Mac Pier, president of COPGNY, told The Christian Post.

COPGNY seeks "to gather leaders in an upper room prayer experience with Jesus," said Pier, who has been involved with the organization in New York City since 1991.

This year, the prayer event carries the theme "Be With Me Where I Am." In each offered session, guest speakers will take the participants through verses in John 17.

While the annual gathering serves to recharge the Christian leaders, it is also a time for the five boroughs of New York City and the tri-state regions to network for collaborative mission.

That issue will be addressed by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church, who is scheduled to address the crowd Tuesday morning.

Warren will also be introducing The New York City Leadership Center, a new project underway that aims to train regional Christian leaders who will be able to collaborate with global church movements and serve as a model for future leaders abroad. The official launch of the center will take place on Sept. 20, 2008.

According to Pier, New York City is important because of its global influence.

"We are the largest Jewish city in the world, the largest Puerto Rican city in the world, the largest Dominican city in the world," he said.

"God has brought the whole world to New York. It's really important to understand that we have a unique opportunity as the body of Christ to impact global history."