On November 6-7, almost 100 elders and wives (and prospective ones) from around New England, New Jersey and New York gathered in Hartford, CT, for the annual Northeast Elders and Wives Retreat.

John and Nancy Mannel from St. Louis were this year’s keynote speakers.

As is our custom, the Friday night kick-off event is always the Clarence and Laura Webster BBQ feast.

Once again, the Websters and a host of voluntary servers did not let us down. From brisket, chicken and ribs to vegetables, drinks and desserts — the hall was filled with food, laughter, fellowship and memories.

Once the initial meal was complete, all of the crowd moved upstairs for some singing and a devotional thought by Boston elder, Wyndham Shaw. Wyndham’s physical pace has slowed, but his mind, heart and preaching were as powerful as ever. He preached, “Feed the Sheep,” in an emotional and deep way, sharing openly about his year of physical challenges.

Saturday began with worship and good news from the elderships or leadership teams represented. A new addition to this year’s program was each church selecting one representative to share a huge challenge from the past year and a “God-given victory” as well.

John Mannel delivered lessons throughout the day. His personal and story-telling style endeared all as he spoke on “Who We Are and What We Are To Be,” “Raising Up Elders and Wives,” and “Building Strong Relationships Between Elders and Evangelists.” Nancy taught a break out class for the sisters on “What You Are Is God’s Gift to You and What You Do With Yourself Is Your Gift to God.” The Mannels were a breath of fresh air, wisdom and insight.

Boston’s Roger Lamb, director of Disciples Today, attended the event and spent much of the last hour updating us on good news from around the world, the delegate process and answering questions. Joe Silipo from Hartford emceed the Saturday portion of the program and closed us out with some brief thoughts on “Planting Seeds for Eternity.”

As always, the fellowship ran deep and late. Forging unity among the elders and wives’ group is so powerful. As it happens year after year, we are called higher and reminded of God’s greatest charge: to love.