Confessions of A Pandemic Pastor
The headline of the online article for pastors I had just clicked on in my Facebook feed read: 8 Signs That You Might Be Suffering From Burnout.
As I read through each of the eight signs, I whispered "check" by each one that I knew applied to me. I whispered it eight times. I went back and did it again just to make sure, but the result was the same.
It wasn't exactly a surprise, to be honest. And I know I'm not the only pastor checking that list.
You see, every conversation I've had with fellow pastors over the past year and a half has been filled with confessions of weariness, uncertainty, worry, mental fatigue, and spiritual uneasiness.
None of us were trained to lead a church through a pandemic, social unrest, and the deep divisions of a contentious and heated political environment.
We have preached to empty rooms for months. We did our best to keep our congregation engaged, and our staff motivated. We grieved as members checked out or moved on, and we monitored the church finances with uneasiness.
Some of us worked harder, and longer than we've ever worked in our lives. And even more so as we began to return to in-person events, worship, and the like. As we began to re-open, we did our best to manage anxieties, navigate pitfalls, and plan ahead even though we knew most of our plans would change in an instant.
We were not alone, mind you. Scores of lay people had to make radical changes in their own vocations and carried with them their own challenges. This past year and a half has been hard on us all.
But when you are looked upon to be the person with answers about God, faith, and life, it's hard sometimes to come up with something that makes sense when you are struggling to understand it yourself... Especially when you are tired, and wrung out from the journey.
There were wonderful moments, too, don't get me wrong.
We saw many of our church members rise to the occasion, engage in radical generosity, offer unwavering support and do everything in their power to keep their community of faith connected, and moving forward.
We were humbled by words of encouragement, blown away by the spiritual depth we witnessed from our congregations, and enlivened by the creativity we experienced from our church leaders and staff.
In these respects, it was an incredible season of growth and life.
In my own church, this season served as a catalyst to move us forward, to have hard conversations about what we stand for, and who we want to be in the future that is emerging. It was a defining moment for us... and for me.
To any pastors or church leaders who might be reading this, I hope that you feel known and seen, and will find encouragement in what I am writing. I also hope that you are able to find some space to rest now. I hope that you find time for renewal and restoration.
Because we are going to be needed more than ever in the world that is emerging---a world that is radically different than the one that existed before all of this began. And we need to be ready.
For my part, I will be taking much of the next several weeks off from creating Devos, preaching, and doing official church business. I'll be using study leave and vacation to practice what I'm preaching in this moment. I hope to rest, write, read and renew as best I can.
To all of you non-pastor, non-church leader folks who may be reading this, know this...
You are needed, now more than ever. You are the church, no matter where you are. The world around you needs to know why all of this--church, God, faith---matters to you so much. Share it. Tell them. Live in such a way that people want what you have.
I am so very grateful for my own congregation, and how we have walked together through this long, difficult journey. I know that our best and brightest days are ahead of us, and I can't wait to keep traveling with you.
This will be my last Devo for the rest of this month. Bear with me while I take a break for a bit, but I'll be back in August, rarin' to go, no doubt. It is a privilege to write these every day and to know that you are reading them.
Now, may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.