After more than a year of pandemic, our Clergy Support Ministry (CSM) feels it’s more important than ever to remind our churches of the unique and cumulative stress that continues to fall on our clergy. The challenges of these many months to provide meaningful worship, pastoral care, administrative leadership, spiritual teaching and inspiration, and congregational “glue” in an unprecedented landscape of online and distant community have been immense. As congregations begin to re-gather in person over these next months, there will inevitably be backs and forths related to health and safety issues. As a result, a mix of in-person and online contact will undoubtedly create an even greater challenge for our clergy than they have already experienced. As a backdrop to all of this, there is for many already in place a level of emotional and/or physical exhaustion and, just as importantly, vicarious trauma from the multiplicity of loss and grief of these times.
For all these reasons, CSM urges congregations to consider new ways to provide significant sabbath time for pastors. In addition to the annual leave already in place for pastors, CSM suggests an additional week of annual leave for clergy as we suggested last year when it was still early in the pandemic. Also, one week apart from planning and doing worship every three months would be a worthy consideration. Because of the pandemic, there are now a plethora of online worship options for congregations. Also, local congregations could consider uniting with other UCC churches in the area to have shared worship thus freeing up time away for clergy. Associations could become resources for arranging such coordination to facilitate sabbath
CSM is continuing to provide educational and support opportunities for pastors with workshops on the new world of worship planning and a spring Clergy Day focused on trauma and recovery. Our Conference Ministers also continue to offer monthly times online for supportive clergy check-ins, and the Pastoral Development Leader Groups continue to meet virtual on a monthly basis.
Working together across the Conference, we can all do what we can to assure environments where the pastoral leadership in our churches can continue to survive and thrive.