By Sue Magrath | Sacred Mountain Ministries
About a month ago, I decided that I would write the December Clergy Wellness column rather than ask an already over-stretched pastor to contribute something. And then I became one of those over-stretched pastors. By that, I mean that I accepted the invitation to serve as an interim lay minster assigned for Trinity UMC in East Wenatchee until a longer-term interim could be found. And so I am experiencing, for the first time in my life, what it means to be a pastor during the busiest time in the church calendar.
Now, I am technically only quarter time, but I am also still doing all the things I normally do—spiritual direction, church consulting, public speaking, etc. So, I thought, maybe I could save some time by adapting material from the curriculum of an Advent day apart for clergy that I conducted a few years ago.
The problem is, looking at that material from my new perspective, what I had created back then sounded sanctimonious and wildly impractical for a full-time clergy person. So I decided to scrap the expectations I had for clergy to attend to their own spiritual Advent journey while juggling all the tasks required by the season and just get real. What follows is the result.
Whatever you are doing, do it mindfully. As you read the lectionary Scripture in preparation for your sermon, hear it as a message for you as well as your congregation. When you preach, receive it as a communication from God to your own soul. As a therapist, I can’t tell you how many times I would give a client some tidbit of wisdom, only to feel God tapping my shoulder and saying, “Did you hear what you just said?” So pay attention to what you are unconsciously needing to hear through your own sermon.
When you are connecting with your congregation, be fully present. Enjoy your relationships with these people that you are accompanying on their spiritual journey. Laugh. Cry. Be real. Spend time with your kids and grandkids whenever you can. Go on a date with your spouse. Be playful whenever possible, even when you’re working. Express your joy.
Take a walk. Get some sleep. Try to eat healthy. Or eat cookies if that’s what you feel like. Just remember to truly savor them rather than mindlessly chewing and swallowing. Let go of whatever is not absolutely necessary. Be gentle with yourself. Let go of some of those expectations that are not serving you well. If you find an unexpected free moment to be in prayer and contemplation, great! But if not, remember that all of life is prayer when you are paying attention.
Be thankful for it all—this crazy clergy life that is busy and stressful and full of ups and downs but is still the most fulfilling thing you’ve ever done or ever will do. Remember that you were called to be right here, right now, and God is with you there. Amen.
Sue Magrath is a spiritual director and retreat leader living in the Seven Rivers District. She also coordinates efforts such as the Clergy Wellness Corner to support the health of spiritual leaders in the Pacific Northwest.