October 31, 2013
This morning I visited one of our staff who is in the hospital and noticed a bus stop between the parking lot and the hospital entrance offering free rides to the door on their “step saver shuttle.” I am sure this is a welcome help for those who need assistance, but was struck by the contrast to our denomination’s health initiative to get as many steps as we can each day. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful new headquarters of our General Board of Pension and Health Benefits in Glenview, IL. Elevators are hard to find, as they are an agency committed to health and wellness. It was good to see that the employees there practice what they preach, and a good reminder to me to take the stairs more often.
Another important learning I took away from my time at GBOPHB was an alarming statistic: 4.5% of our clergy are on disability (that’s between 800-900 people), and 1/3 of those cases are for mental health. These figures are three times higher than the general population. There are, of course, many studies into the reasons for this, and I won’t hazard guesses here. I will offer a couple of suggestions of ways that we might do a small part in turning our attention to this concern.
First, I encourage all of our clergy who qualify to sign up for Virgin Pulse, and take full advantage of the terrific resources on our GBOPHB web pages. I have learned more about health and wellness, from skin care to heart disease, on the videos and information pages available on the GBOPHB website. It doesn’t hurt that you can actually earn money while learning and taking steps toward wholeness (we’re talking hundreds of dollars, friends!).
Second, if you find you are stretched thin, over-tired, anxious, and the burdens too great to handle…there is help available. If you don’t feel comfortable going to your D.S. you can utilize the resources of our health program through the Employee Assistance Program (call the # on the back of your insurance card).
Next, I encourage all of our laity to support your pastors with prayer, encouragement and support. We’re in this ministry together…pastors are not the “hired help,” they are called into specialized ministry as we all are called to partner with Christ in mission. October is “pastor appreciation month,” a wonderful opportunity to show a little love. An excellent gift would be to give them a gift certificate to the pastor’s winter gathering in January, an opportunity for rest and renewal AND for connecting and learning from other clergy. Some of them will need help with childcare for school-aged children as the event is mid-week, and others will not want to dip into their continuing education funds for this if finances are already stretched. Registration is now open and discount offered if you sign up today!
Finally, let us be in prayer for all who serve our church, from the local food pantries to the offices of our general agencies, lay and clergy, making a difference in lives and transforming our world as the hands and feet and heart of Jesus. Let’s keep stepping out in faith!
Connected in Christ,
P.S. This Sunday is Orphan Sunday …see how you might share this information with your church. And, Sunday evening the youth of Aldersgate UMC in Chelmsford MA will lead worship designed for and by youth…all are welcome! Check out my twitter page @A2BDCM for more updates like these.