In recent years, a particular focus of Alban has been the health and wellbeing of congregational leaders. In this edition of the Weekly, Jessica Young Brown offers us suggestions for how to care for pastors who are experiencing secondary trauma because of COVID-19. Matt Bloom reminds us of the importance of personal rituals to sustain us, even during a pandemic.

Finding ways to describe what we are experiencing as congregational leaders in this season is vital for our ongoing mental health. Amy Peterson invites us to write poetry as a resource for our individual and collective lamentation, and if finding our own words proves difficult, Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros suggests poems from others to help us express what we need to say. 

Welcome to the Weekly. 

Who cares for the shepherds? The secondary trauma of faith leaders must be addressed

Who cares for the shepherds?

“While pastors have the responsibility of leading churches during these tumultuous times, they are still whole people with their own anxiety about COVID-19, maybe their own financial issues, their own angst about the state of the world.” – Jessica Young Brown

The last six months have taken quite the toll on congregational leaders. If we haven’t already, now is the time that we develop strategies to support them as the COVID-19 crisis persists.

A commitment to personal rituals can sustain clergy, even during a pandemic

Personal rituals can help sustain clergy, even during a pandemic

A leading researcher on well-being at work describes how adaptable, restorative practices can help during times like these. As Matt Bloom writes, “Simple practices that require small amounts of time really do create benefits, as long as we make them rituals, activities that we engage in regularly.”

Resources to respond to the coronavirus

How poetry can help kids — and all of us — practice lament

The writer Amy Peterson looks to the example of the book of Lamentations as a way to find words for our feelings. The poetry in that book can also offer a form to contain that which so often feels uncontainable and uncontrollable.

When it’s hard to find our own words

Much of the vocation of congregational leadership is about finding the right words for the right moment, and yet, there are times when it’s hard to know what to say. Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros offers us the words of poets to express what we’re feeling.

From the Alban Library

A Guide to Ministry Self-Care: Negotiating Today’s Challenges with Resilience and Grace

By Richard P. Olson; Ruth Lofgren Rosell; Nathan S. Marsh and Angela Barker Jackson

A Guide to Ministry Self-Care: Negotiating Today's Challenges with Resilience and Grace

Ministry has never been an easy path, and the challenges of today’s changing church landscape only heighten the stress and burn-out of congregational leaders. A Guide to Ministry Self-Care offers a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of both the causes of stress and strategies for effective self-care. Written for both new and long-time ministers, the book draws on current research and offers practical and spiritual insights into building and maintaining personal health and sustaining ministry long term. The book addresses a wide range of life situations and explores many forms of self-care, from physical and financial to relational and spiritual.

Before you go…

I finished seminary before there was a significant emphasis on clergy self-care. My classmates and I knew that we needed to do something different than our mentors in ministry had done, but we didn’t have an imagination for what that “different” could be. Now, in many religious traditions and congregations, there are robust conversations about how clergy and other congregational leaders can care for themselves in the midst of the pressures of ministry. The challenges of 2020 have only made those conversations more important. 

So, please take care of yourself, and until next week, peace!

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity