Anyone else wake up tired?
Easter Monday is a day for taking a big exhale. If you work in and for the church, you just finished the biggest week and high, holy Sunday of the year. You are also carrying the heavy weight of grief, sadness and uncertainty in this long season of Pandemic and Covid-19.
We need joy and hope to sustain us. But how?
This Easter Monday has for centuries been a low day in the life of the church – following a full Holy Week and the pomp and circumstance of Easter. I’ve heard that some priests in the Eastern church take this day to tell jokes, smoke cigars, and drink brandy. I totally understand the need for such a tradition. I’ll need to embrace jokes, since I have neither brandy nor cigars in the house. I feel the need for this, and I did not even preach or lead music or record multiple services last week.
Easter Monday is a day for pastors and priests to take time for caring for their own souls. Traditions of intentional self-care, of letting go of any need to produce anything, of putting your feet up (yes, put them up), of laughing with friends and family, of looking for what brings you joy… these are essential. They are not laziness or selfishness. They are critical to our well-being: do nothing, just pray in silence, doodle with crayons, cook just for fun, walk with no agenda or in any particular direction. Daydream.
These are how we practice self-care. They are also how we practice resurrection. They are sources of life-sustaining joy.
In today’s episode with Dr. Mary Clark Moschella, she tells us the story of how she came to write her book Caring For Joy.
She remembers how deep into a semester of teaching pastoral care she walked into her class one day, and she saw the looks on her students’ faces. They seemed to be saying: “Oh what’s she going to hit us with today?”
Is that the look on your face today? The feeling in your heart? The heavy and life-altering moments that stand facing us at every turn are real. We cannot escape them. New things are hitting us each day and week. When will it end? we wonder.
Dr. Moschella reminds us also: “The work of pastoral care is a great joy and privilege.” She is right. As people called to the practice of ministry, we are invited into the lives of people at both critical and joyful moments. We are invited to hear the stories. In these invitations and shared moments of life we can know tremendous joy.
And we also need the energy to sustain such beautiful work. In this season, pandemic pastoring means we have to figure out how to share stories, moments, and even joy in new and different ways.
Not only have practices of care changed in this season, so have practices of self-care.
As most of us are are hitting the one month mark of being sheltered at home, and doing church in new ways in this season of pandemic, I want to invite you to ask yourself some questions about self-care:
- Now that the challenge of planning and delivering Easter services has passed, how will you rest this week?
- What does your body need to be renewed?
- How can you offer your mind a respite from creating, fixing and doing?
- What would it be like to take a full day this week and do no work, and instead just meander . . . dabble . . . ponder . . . squander some time?
I know that responsibilities are weighing, and maybe these questions sound frivolous to you. Your people in your house, your neighbors, your pets, and yes, your congregation, are all depending on you, I know. Still if you cannot find time for you and you alone, your energy for caring with and for others, will dwindle further. Step beyond any sense of false guilt and find an hour, a half a day, a whole day if you can, when you attend to your weary soul.
Deeply buried in this sabbath work is the practice of resurrection, the possibility of joy which you and the world need so much right now.
For more on self-care, join me this week for a presentation at the Oates Institute. You can find details on their FaceBook page.
Enjoy these additional lessons from Mary Clark Moschella, recorded when she spoke at the Yale Youth Ministry Institute.