I Don’t Want To Do This Anymore!?

I Don’t Want To Do This Anymore!?

I don’t want to do this anymore!?
In the last several weeks I’ve heard this phrase several times.  Sometimes it comes directly from individual clergy.  More often is comes from our Conference staff who have sat, in one of many ZOOM rooms, to deeply listen to the personal and professional challenges facing clergy and ministries these days. 

And as time goes on, the voice becomes louder, more poignant and more common.
I don’t want to do this anymore!?  
It’s a statement.  It’s a witty comment.  It’s a question.  It’s a plea.  Its tinged with shame, inadequacy, and sadness, and weariness. 
First it was Easter.  Then May day. Then Mother’s day. Then Pentecost. Then Baccalaureate Sunday,  children’s Sunday, youth Sunday, choir Sunday, confirmation Sunday. 
It's funerals without a gathering. It's weddings postponed.  
It's worship going out live or recorded or over the phone or mailed to parishioners. 
It's ‘feedback’ on worship going out live or recorded or over the phone or mailed to parishioners.
It's consoling via text or cell or Facetime. 
It's watching income impacted by changes in pledging, renters, investments. 
It's grieving family and parishioners who have succumbed to the disease.
It's working with front line medical staff in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, assisted living. 
It's debating when and how to return to in-person worship. Sometimes a simple decision; sometimes a frustrating argument around conflicting ideologies where health is at stake. 
It’s ‘how come the church down the street is re-opening.’
It's worrying about a contagion that can fatally impact you or your family.
It's missing time with family and friends.
It's being parent and pastor and homeschooler and playmate.
It's trying to find some new corner of the house for another hopefully undisturbed ZOOM meeting. 
It's trying to absorb the flood of information and suggestions coming at you.
It's trying to determine whether you know how to minister in the post pandemic world. 
I don’t want to do this anymore!?
And then another black man is murdered.  And the festering original sin wound of this country – “How Long…Too Long” is revealed again.  And the streets fill with people. Fires burn in buildings and within your souls. 
How do you attend or hold a vigil when you’ve suspended in person worship?  
How do you not attend or hold a vigil when this calls to your soul? 
How do you listen deeply and vulnerably to the voices of pain and rage around you or within you?
How do you function professionally when this hits too close to home, again, endlessly, and taps into deep despair and fury?
How do you respond with authenticity from the world of white privilege that has been your life?
How do you hold a mirror up to yourself for honest reflection?  
What will it take to become genuinely and effectively anti-racist? 
How can you help this moment become a tipping point into a paradigm shift? 
How do you inspire your church or ministry to its honest self reflection and genuine action from a computer screen? 
What do you do with the conflicting voices and passions among your flock as political ideologies shout at each other? 
And, oh yes, there is a pandemic either phasing out or the second wave looming ahead. 
Fatigue upon fatigue.  Emotion upon emotion.  Passion upon passion.  Grief upon grief. 
It accumulates.
I don’t want to do this anymore!?
This is not just whining. Its not just overwhelm. Its reflected in phrases like ‘burn out’ and ‘compassion fatigue’.  But its more than that. There are 2 fundamental things coming at you:
  1. There is intense, compacted and uncertain change coming at everyone at a level beyond our normal coping skills.
  2. Times of crises like this, with a prolonged time of liminal shifting sands, impact you at the level of your core identity and purpose. 
I don’t want to do this anymore!?    Listen to that voice.  Know that this is normal.  Know that you are in good company with a multitude of people feeling this in this moment.  Know that moments like these have always created this.  Know that this needs attention.  Please know that at its core this is an invitation to new life.  Because, our God is just like that. 
Our ministry in this “COVID 1619” era is that proverbial marathon, not a sprint.  We have a ways to go before the pandemic is over.  This is a moment when an anti racist paradigm shift is possible, but such shifts take energy and sacrifice. Your ministry is so important in this moment.  And you are NOT GOD!
If you haven’t found someone to talk to - a friend, colleague, coach, therapist or spiritual director - find one.  (Our Conference’s ministerial aid groups can help make that possible. Communities of Practice can be essential. Talk with Conference staff).  Find someone who can hear and hold and see your pain and help you process it in your heart, mind and soul.  Find someone who can help you discover that deeper life and calling that is at the center of this moment.
Get out.  Physical activity can help get things moving in that same heart, mind and soul.  And connecting with God’s creation has always been a stress antidote for the human being (and human doing). 
Take a deep breath…often….Pause, notice, express gratitude, pray, be still.  And breathe again.
Take your vacation…now.  Too many folks are postponing vacations because of COVID restrictions.  Your soul needs a chunk of down time.   Articles on ‘staycations’ are emerging with some solid advice.  
Seek resources. Your Conference staff and our Conference’s Disaster Resource and Response and Health and Wellness Teams are developing a series of wellness webinars focused on the unique and extreme challenges of this moment in history.  Keep and eye on our Conference’s 5 Things to Share emailing and our website for news.  Check out the mental health section of the Coronavirus web pages for resources and ideas for stress relief, coping skills and resiliency.
There is work ahead…good work…God work. 
That work is happening in the world around you and it is happening in the world within you.  
If you’re not attentive to both, you won’t find life in either. 
We can…together…with each other…with God. 


Don H. Remick

Don Remick is Bridge Conference Minister.

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