Dear Clergy Colleagues,
It’s rough out there! Between a worldwide pandemic, the attempted overthrow of democracy in the United States, and the projected beer and Spam shortages, 2021 isn’t looking much better than 2020. In the current reality, our jobs are incredibly difficult—emotionally, spiritually, and practically. So here are some helpful things to keep in mind as we all try to manage in these unprecedented (so they keep saying) times:
- “COVID brain” is a real thing. Scientists say so. I haven’t had such a convenient blanket excuse for my natural lack of follow-through and attention to detail since I was pregnant. Whatever stupid thing you do (“I realize your last three emails said the meeting was at 5, but I had 6 in my calendar.”) or important thing you forget to do (You can always get the budget approved next month.), just claim “COVID brain” and console yourself with a bowl of ice cream.
- On the one hand, preaching in these circumstances can be difficult. On the other hand, the preaching bar is apparently really low right now. I discovered this by preaching a biblically insightful and theologically rich sermon to which the congregational responses were: “It was so nice to hear your calm, reasonable voice.” That’s all people want right now–to hear you, their pastor, speak to them. Nicely. And not act like the world is about to end. (Even if you think it is.) I may follow the example of Rev. Jesse Jackson and just read Green Eggs and Ham for my next sermon.
- If you are feeling isolated, it can help to turn to social media and connect with like-minded colleagues. Except, there are also terrible people on social media. I mean, beloved children of God–who post things that make Jesus weep and you swear. So you want to avoid them. And there are lovely people coping much better than you who post about all of their innovative church initiatives and home improvement projects and exercise regimes—you want to avoid them, too. So maybe stick with cute dog pictures and funny cat memes. Or forget this whole suggestion. Social media—any media, really–is probably a bad idea.
- Set clear boundaries with your time: turn your phone off when you are working on sermons, hanging out with your family, or taking some time for yourself; only check email at a few designated times each day; take a day off and a Sabbath day each week. Also enjoy your tea party with the Tooth Fairy and be sure to wave at the pigs flying overhead.
- Accept the fact that we are all living through a collective trauma right now. If you’re not preaching the best sermons of your life, that’s O.K. If a church committee (or two . . . or three) is not functioning at a particularly high level, cut yourself and your people some slack. If you’ve worn the same pajama pants all day for the last five days, just make sure you change your shirt if you are on zoom with the same people two days in a row. Or put on a necklace or scarf or . . . Oh, it probably doesn’t matter. Nobody will notice or care because we have bigger things to worry about. . . . My point is, give yourself some grace. Like how I had that whole terrible suggestion before about social media. But I’m not going to stress over that because COVID brain is a real thing.
- Remember that this is not a time to abandon our faith, but a time to look to scripture and work harder than ever to emulate the example set for us by Jesus Christ. In particular, the example where he is sleeping through a storm and gets a little short with the disciples when they wake him up from his (much-deserved) nap.
Rev. Joanna Harader pastors the lovely people of Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, KS. And she knows they appreciate the brilliant content of her sermons and not just her ability to remain calm in a time of crisis. And she apologizes again to her fellow committee members for missing tonight’s meeting. Her blog is Spacious Faith.
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