By Rev. Lara Bolger
But Moses’ hands grew tired. So they took a stone and put it under Moses so he could sit down on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side of him so that his hands remained steady until sunset. – Exodus 17:12
This verse caught my attention as I was preparing for a Board Meeting this past Spring. The image of Aaron and Hur providing Moses a place to sit and holding his hands with theirs is a beautiful scene of tender support. At the time, I was thinking about how we, as clergy, can support each other during this tumultuous time in the life of our denomination. As I reflected more on this Scripture, I thought of the people who are holding my hands up and keeping me steady right now.
At this point in my ministry, I realize that my Aaron and Hur are more than two people. There are two clergy friends, one far and one near, who hold my hands through regular texts and emails, while making time to get together a priority. They understand the demands of the job and really let me be myself. Another person holding my hand is a local therapist who I meet for coffee. It’s a professional relationship where I can talk about pastoral care situations, and she can mull over new workshop ideas. She was one of the first people who reached out after General Conference to see how I was doing and offer her time and support if needed.
The experience of being held up and steadied also reminded me of the wisdom of having “anchors” in place, something I learned in seminary. An anchor, as you know, secures a boat in place. In my pastoral care class, we were given a list of ten “anchors” that could help keep us steady throughout
When I’m intentional, I’m open and receptive to the people who come into my life, not trying to force something. For example, when I moved to Redmond, I tried to put together an ecumenical group. After several attempts, it didn’t feel right, nor was it going anywhere. Once I let that go, two new relationships unfolded that are invaluable to me. One is with a Turkish Muslim leader who I met through a community event and who supports me in ways I would have never imagined. The other is with a Presbyterian pastor who lives nearby and who shares similar ministry contexts and experiences.
While the list I received in seminary was a starting point, I’m slowly turning it into a list I’m creating for myself, which is a work in progress. I recognize that each of the relationships I have are ones where I can be vulnerable and share my struggles. And the people who are holding me up are people who also allow me to hold them up. The relationships are mutual and reciprocal. Which means at any time I can be Moses, Aaron, or Hur. Through good and bad, being able to ask for help when I need it, and paying attention to the people in my life who need me to hold them up, is an anchoring experience.
As I mentioned above, I was drawn to this Scripture by the tender support that was offered to Moses in his time of need. I was thinking about how we, as clergy, could be supportive to one another, how we can really hold each other up. Perhaps one of the ways we can support each other most right now is to acknowledge fellow clergy with whom we already have a relationship of trust and collegiality — people who hold good boundaries and are able to reciprocate by sharing their own struggles and vulnerability.
Let’s ask for help when we need it and pay attention when our colleagues need us to pull up a rock, so they sit can down and rest their hands in ours.
Rev. Lara Bolger serves as pastor for Redmond United Methodist Church in Redmond, Washington. She is also the current chairperson for the PNW Board of Ordained Ministry.
It is very hard to know when to “offer a hand” and when to mind your own business, so to speak. Once, when I learned that a colleague was experiencing a failed marriage, I did reach out and was able to spend portions of three days with him as he processed his pain. It also created a life-long bond between us. Most of the time we don’t know what others are experiencing unless they speak up. Reminds me of the time I informed my lay leader that I was hurting over an issue in the parish. What I thought was confidential was soon known by many and it turned out to be very helpful. Eventually we all moved beyond the hurt and came out better “on the other side”.