Intentionally tending to the wellbeing of our clergy and clergy families
January 10, 2023 / By Rebekah Solar, Licensed Local Pastor at Three Mile Bay UMC and Point Peninsula UMC
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the 2022 Issue II of the Advocate, which focused on spiritual wellness. Click here to access the issue.
Something new has come to the Northern Flow District. Well, not really something new, but certainly something different. I am Bekah Solar. I am a licensed local pastor, serving the congregations and communities of Three Mile Bay and Point Peninsula. I am also moonlighting as the Northern Flow District Associate for Younger Clergy and Clergy Families.
My passion is for clergy wellness and support. I get up each day and ask myself, how can I best help resource and equip clergy and other spiritual leaders to best live into whom God is calling them to be? How can I help you to be the best pastor you can be for your congregation and community today? As a clergy parent of three school-aged and younger children, I have experienced some of the chaos and uncertainty of ministry, both before and during the pandemic. I have spent long hours listening to the hearts and stories of my colleagues serving across the connection, as they struggled (and struggle, still) to find their next step- their next breath. I feel so honored to hold their sacred stories and bear with them as they explore their own spiritual landscapes. In grief and in love, through challenges and celebrations, these remarkable people of faith continue to lean into their calling and upon their God to sustain them in all that they do.
After several conversations with District Superintendent, the Rev. Mike Weeden, we wanted to find ways to help the spiritual leaders in the Northern Flow District to be nourished and nurtured in Christ as they live out their call. I always say, “Pastors are people, too.” By tending to and caring for our spiritual leaders as whole people, by understanding that home influences work and work influences home and everything in between, we might bring to light the importance of spiritual health and wellness. As we seek to cultivate a culture of call, it becomes significant to note that spiritually healthy congregations and communities do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they are strengthened by spiritually healthy leaders. When our spiritual leaders, both lay and clergy, take seriously the task of soul-tending, they may find the depths necessary for continued engagement and leadership in pastoral ministry. This work takes place not only individually, but also communally.
In the Northern Flow District, our plan is to start on a smaller scale, and intentionally collaborate with younger clergy and clergy families to offer mutual support. By nurturing the fellowship and communion of these pastors, we can help them to find a community of support and creative brainstorming for active ministry. In tending to one another, this group will hopefully become a place to offer and receive prayer and encouragement.
The intentional designation of time and resources to care for those serving in itinerant ministry and their families helps us shine a spotlight on the absolute need for integrating soul-tending into a holistic ministry approach. Putting it another way, the Northern Flow District is actively investing in the spiritual wellness of the clergy serving their communities. Beyond working with this subset of pastors, the Northern Flow District will also be offering opportunities for all of our pastoral leaders to gather and fill their cups. At this time, we are planning on offering Advent, Lenten, and spring/summer gatherings. These are not meant to be planning events or work meetings, but the chance for our pastors to cross the threshold and enter into these seasons. Our hope is that they may encounter again the renewing presence of God and find themselves grounded in Christ’s Love.
As we journey together in ministry, it becomes imperative that we find cool, deep wells from which to draw support. By intentionally tending to the wellbeing of our clergy and clergy families, we are strengthening those who have answered God’s call and dedicate their lives to this service. If we can build up our leaders in spiritually healthy ways, we may find spiritually healthy communities of faith thriving across our District and across our connection. In these places, there is yet hope, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Good News of Jesus Christ may, in fact, still change the world.