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2019 Lenten Devotional

A "Sheepish" Lenten Guide to Sheep, Shepherding and Staying on the Path

A Six-Week Lenten Devotional from the Northern Illinois Conference

By Bishop Sally Dyck

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My brother and I had a little sheep-raising business when we were young, but shepherds, shepherding and sheep aren’t part of everyone’s experience. So, in 2017, I was surprised when the Northern Illinois Annual Conference approved an Annual Conference Shepherding Team (ACST) with corresponding District Shepherding Teams. (See

The Organizational Task Force designed these teams to help connect, coordinate and communicate ministry and mission throughout our annual conference as well as to vision and strategize for the future. 

Some church consultants think that we should abandon all use of the word shepherd or even pastor (which means shepherd) because it’s too passive and, dare I say, too serene for the rigorous tasks of ministry. Yet shepherding in the ancient near east (and other places) was hazardous, requiring a lot of courage to face the dangers of steep cliffs, wild animals in the wilderness, long lonely nights, and little social regard.

We hope that this six-week Lenten Devotional, titled  A "Sheepish" Lenten Guide to Sheep, Shepherding and Staying on the Path, leads to greater appreciation and application of an image deeply rooted in our scripture and tradition and our daily experience.  Shepherding is really about leading and being led by God into some new “pastures” through some new paths. In the ancient near east, women and girls were shepherds, too! The image is not gender exclusive. Further, shepherding or ministry today isn’t just one ordained person in charge. Rather, a team of clergy and laity working hard to care for souls and communities, with long hours and sometimes in difficult settings. 

And so, the Rev. Myron McCoy and I, along with Jane Rubietta as the editor, wrote these devotionals to spark conversations about ministry and leadership—laity and clergy—in our local churches. We hope that they will make you more aware of the Annual Conference and District Shepherding Teams, but mostly we want to re-cast a vision of what it means to be shepherds/leaders today!

Various tools are available at the end of each week’s reading for discussion, prayer, and reflection both in a group as well as individually. In addition, the applications make it very simple for anyone to facilitate a small group. Churches are free to download and share this resource. Enjoy!

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