Just a Couple of Things Your Pastor Has Dealt with in 2020

A moment ago, I finished the following for another purpose, but I thought some folks might like to read it. It’s a very short list of more or less unique things clergy have faced this year. Teachers could probably relate to many of these items, but, even then, not in the same way. And teachers are doing so with far more public awareness than clergy. Either way, I offer the following for your consideration. (And, clergy, feel free to add other items in the comments.):

  • COVID-19/Pandemic – Clergy in therapy and facilitated groups have all experienced the same stressors related to Covid as the general public (e.g., managing limitations in energy and concentration, in-home school, concern for self/family, conflicting public opinions/beliefs). Clergy usually have to perform and frequently switch between a variety of tasks and use a wide range of skills. Having to adapt all of these at once to the pandemic has been immensely challenging at best and utterly overwhelming at worst. As one clergy client voiced recently, ‘I’m exhausted by having to constantly navigate (Covid) with everything…and everyone.’ For instance, clergy have had to: 
    • Re-design, develop, and execute group activities (e.g., worship, Bible study, weddings) for virtual spaces or in-person with safety systems in place. A few stressors related to this include:
      • Theological questions (e.g., Can Communion be shared without an officiant present? Must cooperate worship be in-person? Who am I if I can’t perform the rituals in person?)
      • Technology (e.g., lack of familiarity with online tools, training staff/lay leaders, congregants’ lack of online access, connection problems, sustainability questions)
      • Facility management (e.g., access decision, ushers trained to maintain safety, preparing sanctuary for social distancing)
      • Compliance problems (e.g., congregants/guests refusing to social distance or wear masks, accusations of “being political” if CDC guidelines are followed, lack of direction from regional bodies)
    • Adjust pastoral care practices (e.g., maintaining contact with elderly or others who are isolated and “don’t text/do Facebook/have Wi-Fi”, lack of clergy access to nursing homes).
    • Officiate upwards of four times the usual number of funerals in a given year. Clergy are starting to feel the effects of compounded grief and are worried about the long-term consequences of not having time to process one death before having to prepare a funeral for the next death in the community. 
  • Social unrest – More than most, clergy have to navigate public opinions on current events and issues. They are expected to and not to speak about these topics. Congregants frequently accuse clergy of “being (too) political” or not addressing societal problems directly enough. Clergy persons are usually “pleasers” and our current political climate has afforded clergy minimal opportunities to please one person without automatically displeasing several others at the same time. Additionally, clergy struggled with their own emotional reactions, beliefs, and questions related to the murder of George Floyd (for one), ongoing protests and counter-protests/actions, and the various political responses in the media. But they also had to witness (e.g., on social media) or field their congregants’ reactions, too, which sometimes were dramatically at odds with their own beliefs or teaching. They’ve wrestled with how their faith and theology have been guiding them on these topics, both in the short and the long term. While some facilitated clergy groups are addressing topics of racial reconciliation directly with each other, this is stressful for them and they feel ill-equipped to face their own and their congregations’ biases, much less live out reconciliation commitments. But not addressing these issues is also stressful for them.

If in reading this you find yourself feeling compassion, let your clergy-person know. Tell them you have been thinking about all they’re going through and that you’re praying for them. I am sure they will greatly appreciate it.

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