My wife, Patty, and I love to hike. We have found on our many trips that many of the “good” sites are a good distance from trail-heads. Though we have a great deal of hiking gear, we don’t have any camping gear. Thus, we have learned that to see much of the beauty along trails, we must do long hikes. As such, we have done a number of 20+ mile treks to enjoy the scenery of national parks. Some of the trails have been long, but without much incline. Others have had steep inclines or slopes necessitating scrambles over loose rocks.
Each trail has its own character. On easier trails, though they may not have many obstacles, the constant movement and weight of the backpack takes its toll. Even though the backpack doesn’t seem heavy at the end of the day, the long hours of carrying its burden has a slow, but cumulative effect. On the more difficult trails, with steep ascents or descents, or challenging scrambles, the fatigue is realized as we experience the obstacle. The beauty of what we experience is both breath-taking and invigorating. However, in the end, all of them leave us tired, sore and ready for rest.
In reflecting on the situation we find ourselves as pastoral leaders, I see a parallel to these long hikes. For some, support from the local church has been given freely, as understanding and compassion for the adaptation has been required. This may seem like the easy path. However, it still has been a long journey (which still continues) with many decisions that have had to be made. Fatigue of body, mind and spirit is a natural consequence. For others, the journey through the pandemic has been filled with the obstacles of second-guessing, hurtful conversations or threats of mutiny. The heaviness of these are immediately felt deep within our being. Probably most of us are somewhere between these two extremes.
Recently, I read an article from the Baptist News website that addresses some of the effects that are occurring within clergy ranks (https://baptistnews.com/article/too-many-pastors-are-falling-on-their-own-swords/). It may describe some of what you are feeling at this time. If not you, it may be indicative of the state of the souls of some of your clergy colleagues. If, at this time, you are feeling deep fatigue or a heavy burden on your soul, please reach out to someone. Find activities that refresh your spirit. As a reminder, through conference insurance behavioral health through telemedicine at $0 copay. Also, the Office of Ministerial Relations has a counseling fund for clergy under appointment of $400/year. The application is on the Conference website. If you are at peace in the midst of the pandemic, I pray God will continue to bless you with serenity. If not, I pray that you will soon discover a sense of serenity.
Connections do matter. They matter to us and they matter to others. I do encourage you to contact at least 5 ministerial colleagues and check in with them. To the extent possible, move beyond more superficial conversation and ask them how they are doing … really doing.
By the way, I am going to send this link to the S/PPRC chairs of district churches on Thursday. Please check with them to make sure they have received something from Sarah. I think it would be helpful for congregations to be aware of the burden of leadership in these difficult times.
May God bless you all! I am praying for you and the churches you serve.
Additional Resources: https://corridordistrictnc.org/resources-for-pastors-destressing-during-the-pandemic/
If you would like to view past editions of Moments with Mike, follow this link: https://corridordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/