At the risk of sounding like Walt Kowalski, we never used to hear about clergy self-care back when I was a young pastor. And yet today the call for church leaders to care for themselves seems to be all the rage.
It’s high time.
Back in the bad old days, we had only one another to complain to about the long hours, low pay, relationship damage and psychological stress. Our various supervisory entities didn’t want to hear about it, and our congregations had about as much sympathy for the challenges facing clergy as state school boards are currently evincing for the concerns of public school teachers. Which is to say, “not much.”
Though the writers of Homily Service generally focus their articles toward providing preachers with inspiration for their Sunday sermon to the faithful, in 2009 Neal D. Presa instead turned the light of the gospel lesson for this week upon his readers. In examining Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56, Presa sees a “word from the Lord” which calls church leaders to carefully manage the tension between care of ourselves and care of God’s flock.
Yet, Jesus knows that in the midst of our working, even with all the good motives and intentions, we can forget about the care of our souls...
Jesus knows all too well what serving does. Look at our text again. The call for rest and retreat precedes crowds coming from every direction, in the towns and even across the sea. What a refreshing word to all of us leaders in the church to hear our Master’s call again, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile. What a soothing balm it would be for our congregation members, students, family, friends, and colleagues to hear those words. They, too, need the healing word of rest, reflection, and restoration.
But you know what would be even better than saying and hearing those words? Wouldn’t it be excellent if we saw that put into practice, a habitus for us to adopt for our lives. Believe the words. Embrace it. Follow it. In addition, live it. It will do wonders for you, your ongoing ministry, for the rest of your life. Remember, the work will always be there, waiting for you when you emerge from the deserted place of your rest.
Do you have a habitus of self-care? Have you found a way to observe a sabbath for yourself?
Neal D. Presa, Homily Service 42:3, 82-83.