From the Top of the Mountain: Reflections on the AICEME Pastors and Spouses Conference

From the Top of the Mountain
By Joel Rova-Hegener
The American Lutheran Congregation, Oslo, Norway

Editor's Note: Joel Rova-Hegener shares his experiences at the 2016 AICEME pastors and spouses conference

A little over a week ago, I stood in awe on top of a mountain, looking in every direction and seeing God’s glory. Peaks crowned in glittering snow encircled me and left me speechless. These peaks looked like the mountains I would draw as a child, steep cone shaped, and all in white. It was beautiful! I felt as if I was getting a glimpse of heaven, but in reality what I was reveling in was the Alps of Switzerland.

Joel Rova-Hegener and Emily Rova-Hegener at Schilthorn

Joel Rova-Hegener and Emily Rova-Hegener at Schilthorn

I had ascended to the peak of the Schilthorn via two railways and three gondolas. To the East were the three famous summits of the Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger, which were almost lost in the midst of all the other picturesque Alps that surrounded us. My wife Emily and I were blessed to be in the midst of Switzerland’s picture perfect scenery on a sunny day. Don’t worry, we enjoyed it!

The reason we were up on the top of the world was that we were participating in the Association's annual pastors and spouses conference. Having been serving at the American Lutheran Congregation in Oslo, Norway, for only ten months we had not attended an AICEME conference yet. We had been looking forward to our time in Geneva and the Interlaken area of Switzerland, the chance to learn from Rod and Bev Wilson, and to meet our peers scattered around Europe, but we had been a bit nervous too. Not having attended an Association event or been able to meet any other pastors or spouses yet had left us a little in the dark about what we might expect. Yet within a day, we had no worries for the conference was filled with highpoint after highpoint.

The couple of hours that we spent at the top of the world was the geographical highpoint of our pastors and spouses conference. There also were many spiritual highpoints as well, meaning our time up on Schilthorn’s peak was not my only mountaintop experience of the week. In fact the entire week of teaching, conversations and experiences was a spiritual mountain top for me. I met new friends, learned new things, and was spiritually fed by a new teacher. Rod Wilson and his teachings on pastoral “being” were very impacting for my ministry.

The AICEME pastors and spouses conference was a great asset to me as a pastor as it provided me with an opportunity to engage with my peers, to learn, to share and to grow. The best part of it all was that we were gathering together as pastors from multiple denominations and theological view points and worship styles to grow together in our faith in Jesus Christ, and be inspired in our multi-national ministries. I could really see the Holy Spirit’s movement throughout the week. Isn’t that what one hopes for at a conference of pastors? I sure do, and I was not let down.

My only low point was leaving my new friends and realizing that it would be a full year until we could gather again. So, I am looking forward to seeing you all in Vienna and Bratislava in 2017!