Clergy Burnout with a Panel of Current Clergy | Podcast Season 02, Episode 04
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In this episode of our Clergy Burnout series hosted by Kate Rae Davis, MDiv, and Rose Madrid Swetman, DMin, we’re joined by a panel of three clergy members to discuss the challenges they are facing in their current contexts and what keeps them going. You’ll hear different vantage points but common challenges: How do I continue to show up for my community, stay true to the Gospel, and stay true to who I am called to be? We’re grateful to our guests, Rev. Justin White, Rev. Elizabeth Riley, and Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, as they vulnerably share their perspectives with us.
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About our guests:
Rev. Justin White (he/him) is an ordained elder in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He is the pastor of Stanwood UMC in Stanwood, WA. He loves music, theology, the beautiful outdoors, and most all sports. You can find Justin on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Rev. Elizabeth Riley was born and raised in Alaska. She comes from an interfaith family, half Jewish and half Christian. Initially formed in the Catholic Church she joined the Episcopal Church in middle school and felt called to the priesthood at 15 years old. She’s a graduate of Church Divinity School of the Pacific. She currently serves as Rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Mercer Island and is a mom to three fantastic tiny humans. You can find Elizabeth on TikTok and Instagram.
Rev. Donnell Wyche currently serves as Senior Pastor and Head of Staff at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor where he has been on staff for 23 years. Passionate about the intersections of race, faith, politics, and technology, Pastor Donnell is a founding member of the Coalition for Re-envisioning Our Safety, the racial equity team for the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office, a member of the Washtenaw Equity Partnership, and the co-coordinator of the Washtenaw Faith Leaders Forum. Pastor Donnell has partnered with the Washtenaw County Sheriff, Prosecutor, and Public Defender to create consistent warrant resolution solutions through the newly formed Warrant Resolution Project. Pastor Donnell has advocated for peace and justice as the president of the board of the InterFaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) and has pursued issues of affordable, fair, and accessible housing as a board member of the Religious Action of Affordable Housing (RAAH). Pastor Donnell is married to Maria, an early childhood literacy advocate and speech-language pathologist, and together, they are raising three multi-ethnic, spiritually engaged, peace-loving, politically aware children. You can find Donnell on Twitter and Facebook.
Rose: Well, thanks, Kate, and welcome, panel. And we want to start out by just hearing from each of you, if you wouldn’t mind, would you introduce yourselves, give us your ministry context where you’re serving? And so why don’t we start with you, Justin.
Justin: Thank you, Rose. Reverend Justin White. My pronouns are he/him. I am in Stanwood, Washington, and I serve at Stanwood United Methodist Church. Stanwood’s an interesting. Rural community north of Seattle, about 35 miles, kind of Skagit Valley area. So a lot of farming and a lot of retirees from Seattle. So you have like these two interesting worlds colliding. So that is kind of my context.
Rose: Thank you, Justin. Elizabeth, how about we go to you?
Elizabeth: Hi, I’m the Reverend Elizabeth Riley. I’m the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Mercer Island. We are part of the Diocese of Olympia. Mercer Island is just outside of Seattle. We are a small community, a fairly affluent community. A lot of people who work in tech and Amazon and Boeing and a lot of young families on our island. And then we do have our mixture of retirees and people who have been here for a while. So that’s where I am serving.
Rose: Thank you, Elizabeth. How about you Donnell?
Donnell: I’m the Reverend Donnell Wyche, I’m the senior pastor at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor. So here is where I am on a map of Michigan, which is the handy little map that we get to carry around. Ann Arbor is a college town. The University of Michigan is here, about 140,000 folks. It’s also one of the eighth most economically segregated communities in North America. So we have a very affluent community, but we also have effectively the working poor. And often those two communities collide in lots of different ways. So I’ve been in my senior pastor role for the last seven years. I’ve been a part of this community for over 20 years, and I am actually in my last – let’s see, it’s the seventh my, my last 24 days of my first ever sabbatical. So I am finishing up my sabbatical and then I have a month of vacation before I go back to work.
Rose: Well, Donnell, thanks for joining us on your sabbatical. We appreciate it. Thank you. Well, thank you all for joining us and being a part of this conversation that we’re doing on clergy burnout. And as you all know from your colleagues and probably your own reading, it’s it’s it’s a thing, right? And so we know that ministry has been increasingly challenging, and the tolls that it’s been taking on pastors that often lead to burnout. We know there’s the great resignation that’s even happened through COVID. And so a recent Barna survey shows that over a third of pastors have considered resigning in the past year. So what we’re wondering from you is, tell us the moments or factors that might make a pastor, you or a colleague, think about leaving the ministry, thinking about leaving their ministry where they’re currently in context. So, yeah, we’d love to hear from each of you. What do you think those factors have been?
Elizabeth: I’m happy to start and talk a little bit about the pandemic. I found out I was pregnant with my third child about a month and a half before the pandemic started. It was right as I was going to announce that to my congregation. Already had two little ones at home, and that was a really wild way to enter the pandemic. And that time, in many ways, I had a wonderfully supportive community through that, and it became incredibly difficult. I think we saw this in ministry in a lot of ways. I felt it very personally as vaccines were rolling out and we saw a whole group of people who could be vaccinated. And slowly but surely the group who couldn’t became smaller and smaller. But my household was full of those small people and so I think there ended up being a lot of tension both for me and for a lot of other young parents in ministry as we wrestled with our need to serve and feed our communities and those who were able and willing and ready to be back in the pews and in the church and the need for keeping our own households and family safe. I think the tension of going through a pandemic and going through a crisis where everyone was in crisis– it wasn’t normal crisis in a congregation where 10% of the people are in the midst of a major loss or grief or crisis that I was completely outside of and could pastor to them– this was something we were all going through. And my own family had enough plenty of crisis that we needed to handle and reconcile that made it that much harder to meet people and their needs. And I think that tension in that struggle really came to a head for me and other young families and for our parishioners who rightfully, you know, want to be pastored to and fed and all of those things, but we were all in crisis at the same time. And so the disparity of of resources and available and what was available to different people at different times and dealing with people’s comfort levels was a real challenge, at least for me.
Rose: Thank you, Elizabeth. Absolutely. And yeah, any any time any of you want to chime in, just let us know that you want to insert and we’re happy because we really do want this to be a conversation. But what about you, Donnell? What did you see as factors?
Donnell: You know, since I yeah. Sitting with this question, it’s been sort of interesting for me. And I’ll come at it in a maybe a slightly different point of view. I think for me, the the primary challenges for either myself or a colleague for leaving ministry, I think has really sits inside the fact that the landscape in which we do ministry has changed so significantly. And I would almost say with warning, but not with a lot of time to respond to those indicators. And and so if there’s space, a story might help illuminate what I mean. So in my context, our sort of polity is a senior-pastor-led sort of congregation, and which is supported by its board as well as empowered leaders. But a lot of the decision making in the direction of the church sits in the office of the senior pastor. And so as I came into my pastorate, one of the things that I established was a pastors advisory committee. And so I took just a little cross section of the church along gender, along sort of political divides along and weren’t able to hit the socioeconomic divide because we met on Tuesday morning. So these are largely people who have the freedom to get up at seven on a Tuesday morning and and we we met every first Tuesday for years. And I also established a group, a sermon reading group. Not because my sermons are bad, though, you know, I imagine any of our sermons can stand from editorial improvements but just because I wanted to be in a proactive posture as opposed to a reactive posture so that I would sort of try things out. And so I would do it with the reading group. I would do it with the pastors advisory group, and they would sort of alert me to things even minuscule, what some may consider minuscule things like the use of language when I when I inadvertently sort of talked about planting gardens and giving our daughters in marriage, you know, I had a single woman who was on my reading group who was like, I don’t know how I feel about being someone who is given away to someone else. And I was like, you know what? I can make some adjustments to how I bring this forward in the sermon. So I felt like I –not to pat myself on the back, but I will– I feel like I took some extra steps to sort of give me some early warning signals of what was going on and the climate around race, Christian nationalism, and white supremacy just really emerged significantly in my context. And so I pastor what is considered one of the most multiethnic churches in our community. I would dare say that there’s not been a survey –we are the most, and even in that context, we struggled with sort of founding members who were not excited about our progression as a church, as a matter of fact, one of these founding members said, every time you preach, you are preaching about race. And and that was surprising to me because I’m like, I don’t think I mentioned race at all. I don’t even think I, you know, I’m even talking about ethnicity in any significant ways. And it took years actually. It took a couple of years before I realized, oh, well, what you mean is I’m Black. That’s what you mean. And you didn’t know how to say that because you’re trying to wrestle through the things I’m raising and you can’t find an anchor for it. So what is different between you and me? Oh, I know what it is. It’s your ethnicity, it’s your race. And because of that, you are changing the gospel. You are changing the message, you are distorting it. And we need to get back to what some in my own denomination would say. What is it, Rose? The main in the plane. Yeah, and I think it for me, that was sort of the first indication where I realized, like, I’m losing myself, I’m losing who I am, who I have been uniquely designed and made to be in order to accommodate the discomfort of someone else. And I’m of the posture that says if I’m in the way, I’m happy to get out of the way so that someone or something else can can take that place. So I think for me, I would actually name the election of Barack Obama. I would then name the white lash that occurred as a result of that election. And I really appreciate Ruby Sales because she said it best. She said that President Trump did something that was missing for a segment of people. He gave white men hope again, because no one was speaking a message of hope to white men. And so he came along and said, I see you, I see your pain, and I’m going to do something about you. And that was an interesting sort of narrative because that’s the the the parlance of the church, right? We are the breeders of hope. We are the declarers that you are seen, you belong, you have a home. But we have abdicated that in some ways to a segment of people. And we allowed another speaker, dare I say, a false prophet to come in and to share that that message. So the elections, the white lash, and then the rise of Christian nationalism, that has been, I think for me, the most salient thing that I’ve had to confront as I lead in a multiethnic evangelical context. Is to say, do I belong in this space? Because I think that that would be my insurance.
Rose: Thank you, Donnell.
Elizabeth: Can I ask Donnell a question? You said, you know, trying to pay attention to when you get in the way and getting out of the way when that is. I wonder if you have felt attention that I think I experience, which is some people think I’m in the way and there’s other ways in which that feels like it’s preaching the gospel and and how we balance those two things, because getting out of the way could just serve to make some people more comfortable, which may not be good, yeah.
Donnell: Yeah. I mean, so I’m going to try to be as honest as I can be that, that’s been one of the gifts of sabbatical is that today I can be more free in some ways with my my posture. I think what I meant, what I mean by that, is that’s what I would do. I mean, how do I want to say this? I think I think the way that I was processing that was through a lens of– I don’t feel called to be a bridge builder to those who are rejecting. What I think we can objectively agree is the core tenet of the gospel. Now as I talk to my peers, my peers will condemn those articulations. They will say, no, you are called to be a bridge builder. And I will respond and say, no, the cross is the bridge, and what Jesus invites us to do on the cross is to come and die. He doesn’t invite us to come and assert our rights or our positions or any of those things. He says, come in and and join me here so that you may meet my father and then be renewed, transformed, you know. And so in that context, I think what I mean is, there are those who are called to be bridge builders. And if the community that I am the leader of, feels like we need a leader who is a bridge builder, I’m not that. And so I want to be as clear as possible to say: I’m going to meet you where you are, I’m going to listen to you. I’m not going to push my agenda. I’m going to ask to say, how do we reason this through tradition, through experience, through the Holy Spirit, through Scripture. But once we exhaust that, I don’t, I don’t have anything else. And I’m not, I personally of a posture 20 years in, where I’m not interested in sacrificing myself to win some. So where Paul says I became this to win these folks, I became that to win those folks. I’m, I don’t know, maybe I’m Peter. Maybe someone needs to come and rebuke me. Maybe there’s an encounter that I yet need, but I’m not going to contort myself anymore to make those people feel comfortable. Now having said that, I have lost some people because if you will, that’s a line in the sand. And they decided they didn’t want to have to confront the reality that we live in a racially caste society and that I’m going to bring a gospel lens into that conversation to say, what do we do about that? And so there are 126 churches in Ann Arbor, and you can go to one down the street and they’ll never talk about race, and you can feel completely comfortable in your articulation of your Christianity. But I feel like you’re going to miss Jesus and some things that Jesus hasn’t said. So I don’t know. I think I answer, but I’m happy to continue a dialogue if that’s helpful.
Rose: Thank you, Donnell. Justin, what what would you say that, either factors that you experienced or colleagues that made you think about leaving the ministry during this time?
Justin: Yeah. So, um, I never once thought about leaving the ministry in the midst of the pandemic, but only because it was 2018 when I was leaving the ministry for good before I landed in the Pacific Northwest. So my kind of journey into the Pacific Northwest left from, like, me turning my credentials in, or about to turn my credentials in, as a United Methodist clergy person to a friend saying, “We need good clergy in the Pacific Northwest and the Methodist Church. Come up here and see what you think.” And so like that was March when we had that conversation. In June, I moved up here and yeah, I felt more comfortable in myself and in my ability to be a minister. So I had kind of wrestled through a lot of those questions around: am I called, am I worthy, and finally felt seen and loved and accepted, particularly as a queer clergy person, in a way that I hadn’t in my previous context. And so I’d already done some of that wrestling. I had already moved into space and finally was doing ministry in a new and more authentic way. But then come March 2020, and not only does the pandemic hit, and not only am I in a Seattle School cohort and we have to go from in-person to online, which really stunk. And then, like April, I found out that they wanted to move me and they wanted to move, yeah. So we’re as Methodist, we are at the call of the bishop, and the bishop moves us if the bishop so wants and desires. And so I moved from Bremerton to Stanwood and, and that was difficult. But it was also a blessing in a way. And I think having, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but having that kind of first from June of 2018, I mean June of 2020, when I moved here to April of 2021, when we had our first in-person gathering, was a great reset for the church, because my predecessor had been there for 12 years. They had all gotten comfortable with each other, which isn’t a bad thing. And there were still some things that had, they were just comfortable, there was no pushing, there was no pulling, there was no anything, and so the grace in that was I could come in as what they saw as the younger person. I mean I was: the pastors before them all were retirement age and retired out of that church, like the previous four pastors, all retired when they left that church. God, I hope I’m not retirement age when I leave because that would be like 20 something years. But there was energy there, in spite of everything, but what I will say in that is also being a single person uprooted from Mississippi in 2018, uprooted from the first church I’d ever been a part of that truly knew me, truly saw me, truly loved me, into a new space, like that was very, very difficult. And I could definitely see where the burnout was happening and could happen because it seems like even in the move, there was a reset. There was still a lot of work happening and almost working harder in the midst of being shut down, particularly around virtual worship. Zoom, zoom, zoom. So much Zoom. The Zoom fatigue was like, absolutely real. And and, and now like where we are, I feel like it’s better, for me anyway. And for the church. But it was a struggle too here, in a more conservative space. The church itself is not conservative. The church itself is probably– I think it’s probably the most progressive church in our community. Yeah. Because even what you would think is the more progressive mainlines here are not so much more progressive, on the Camano Island particularly. And so we didn’t have any COVID deniers. We didn’t have any people who didn’t want the vaccine. But we live in a community where there were many COVID deniers and where there were many mask deniers and where churches were worshiping in March of 2020, in April of 2020 without masks, singing and then holding stop the steal rallies in front of their church –that is part of this community. And so whereas I did have my church members were very aware of what was happening around COVID and very much health conscious and COVID conscious the churches, there were some churches that were meeting and we weren’t and I could always blame our system because we are more of a hierarchical system. And so I can say the bishop doesn’t want us to worship together so we’re not going to do that. But then when things started opening up a little bit and we started phasing back, like Donnell, I found a really good group of people outside of my leadership council that kind of met and talked about our phase and how we were phasing in, and what our regulations were going to be. And I’m grateful for that. I had colleagues who did not have that. And so where I have seen burnout is particularly with clergy who have felt isolated, clergy with young kids as you were saying, Elizabeth, who they are all vaccinated, but their kids are not, or two of their kids are vaccinated and two of their kids are not. And it was a really real thing to see them. A lot of my colleagues of color resigned or quit or moved, a lot of my queer colleagues, a lot of our pastors who are cis-women have kind of not quit, but either gone on sabbatical or are moving, or intending to go into extension ministry outside of the local church. And we are really struggling with that. And I’m seeing it, yeah. So I mean, thank goodness, we have some resources now that we didn’t have at the beginning of the year that we can literally monetarily help people, but particularly Methodist clergy in our midst. But it’s still I mean, I’m seeing it, and I’m seeing the effects of burnout. I’m seeing three of my close colleagues not taking a church and just stepping back and saying I “it’s been too much”. So so there’s a lot of factors.
Elizabeth: Justin, you said something that reminded me of a recent moment of questioning ministry where a person made a comment about how the pandemic church from home time was basically vacation for clergy, and I’m glad to see your shocked faces as well as we tried to learn to do Zoom and hybrid and all of this. And I think the disparity in mentality and understanding of what the work we have each done to uphold our communities, and completely pivot everything that we do, is not appreciated by the majority of folks who are just experiencing the one hour on Sundays.
Justin: Yeah. And then being part of singing communities, like the restrictions around singing, has also been a point of contention in my context. And then if we didn’t have someone singing with the video recording one week: “How dare you not have one person singing?” You know, it’s like, well, first of all, we can’t get any one. Second of all, to take the music and put a voice on top of it, it’s like a four hour process. So if you would like to help do that, absolutely. But until you step up and help do that, I mean, if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. Just be grateful there was a piano.
Kate: I think before COVID, there was a lot of misperceptions about what a pastor’s job is, including for the casual churchgoer who doesn’t see all the pastoral care, the hospital visits, the home visits. What the pastor does is put together the church for Sunday. And really, how long can it take to put together an hour when a lot of that in liturgical church is pretty structured anyway? Like what are you doing all week? And then to see that move to online, I think again, the casual congregant sees that as less. But all of these are skills that pastors have no training in. My my MDiv did not have any training in how to use technology, how to do video editing. So learning an entire new field, I can see how that would be a huge contributing factor to burnout. And also as as you’re saying, Justin that, you have colleagues who won’t take their next call and know in a system where there are already clergy who run two, three, four or five congregations because of a shortage, starting to see the ripple effect of how a system that becomes unsustainable at the denominational space.
Justin: Yeah. And and even, you reminded me of something, Kate, when you’re talking even. Yes, we did a lot of work, but there was some of the work that we couldn’t do that was also draining, like not being able to go to the hospital to visit someone. It’s not that I love doing that, but it is a part of my job that I find holy and sustaining. Going to visit people in the nursing home once a week or once a month to not at all like that was draining in its own different kind of way. That was a part of the ministry that I’ve always thrived in, and it wasn’t there anymore. It couldn’t be there.
Kate: Because our listeners can’t see how to say lots of head nods on the screen. I think clergy have a pretty calm, expansive liking to be with people, and that’s been, that’s been hard for a lot of us the last couple of years.
Rose: You know, all of you have sort of touched on, especially during the pandemic, we’ve heard this phrase like faultlines got exposed, right? So things that were underground in our congregations all of a sudden came out, and in in in many cases, very divisive ways. Did the three of you experience that much with your congregation or have colleagues that were, you were sort of journeying with, that were experiencing that sort of thing?
Elizabeth: Yes. So I, I am in a predominantly white community. I’m a white woman. And during the pandemic, the wider church became more vocal in responding to the violence happening to people of color. I won’t say the violence started then, but obviously it took the stage in a different way with the Black Lives Matter movement. And I think as a fault line, I noticed, I noticed a difference in how my congregation, or some people my congregation wanted us to respond or not respond and holding on to an idea that silence could be a neutral thing. And the division between what are the wider Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Church, you know, our bishops are presiding bishop, were all making statements and being active and vocal on these topics. And one of the pieces that happened is when I would preach on these topics or my associate or we would talk about it, it was easier for people who disagreed to opt out, to not show up. And so we started losing connection and relationship in that way, where it might have been easier for someone who I knew would not like that message to still be able to pastorally check in with them at the end of the service. And there was a lot less of our capacity to do that. So it was, it was easier for some of those folks to walk away. And the pandemic in some ways, I have found, has been, I don’t know if scapegoat is the right word, but a way in which people have said all this social justice talk makes us uncomfortable and we’re so upset from the pandemic and we just need to be fed and we just need to get back together. And we just we can’t lose anyone else. And so it has been a scapegoat to conversations we don’t want to have. And so those fault lines have absolutely been made more clear. And in some ways, it, I’m sure I have misstepped in maybe not being the bridge builder. Donnell, I love that phrase you brought in, that I could have been for some of those folks and then certainly for other folks who feel like we have not done nearly enough on these topics and have walked away for the opposite reason. So it’s it became increasingly difficult to navigate the where people are at and how you bring people along while moving forward, and ending up having folks walking on every side of the spectrum.
Rose: Right. Which is really hard as a pastor leading a congregation that’s that divided over not just one issue, but multiple issues. Exhausting, I think.
Elizabeth: And we’ve seen it around. Oh, sorry.
Rose: No, go ahead.
Elizabeth: Go ahead. Just I think around the racial justice issues, we’ve seen around gun violence issues. We’re seeing it now around Roe v Wade. The world is throwing a pile of topics in front of us and asking us to confront something that was really easy, at least in my nice white congregation, to avoid before this.
Rose: Right, right.
Justin: Right. And I mean, not only were we wrestling with the pandemic like it was, you would I would have a sermon prepared and crap would hit the fan on Saturday. And it’s our Friday and it’s like rinse and repeat, or just start over and find whatever word it is. Kate might laugh at this. I don’t know. I can’t see her face but I found myself as a more moderate person here in the Pacific Northwest. And so sometimes I don’t mind holding the tension, but the polarity has become so vast that even when we can’t agree, like about guns or even choice or that trans kids matter and should be holy and affirmed. Like yeah, it’s just that’s been very taxing and I’m not one to shy away from talking about these things in the pulpit. And we actually have lost two or three people in the church since I’ve been here because I’m bringing up issues that were never brought up before, which actually isn’t true. My predecessors have brought these up. I’m just out. I’m out. Like, I’m out and it’s just a part of who I am. And so they hear it differently from me than they did. And maybe the age being 38 versus 58 and so people are hearing things differently because of how they’re hearing things talked about on the news, whether they’re watching MSNBC or Fox News. Like they’re watching about it right after George Floyd. They’re like watching Seattle News and they’re like Seattle’s so dangerous right now. And I went down to Capitol Hill and I was like, It’s just a street party. Like it. I didn’t feel unsafe at all. I mean, not that I would, I don’t know. And I was like, this is not what we’re seeing on TV is not what’s actually literally happening on the ground here. But then when you try to say that, they’re like, oh but it is. I talked to someone who talked to someone was like. And so the polarities are so vast that it’s just hard to find that not even middle ground, but not even a bridge, just that common ethic of love and of listening and of being at the table together.
Kate: I’m hearing. Yeah.
Donnell: As I was thinking, oh, sorry.
Kate: No you’re to go because I’m hearing the echo of what you brought earlier, that how much your body and identity matters to how people are able to take in the message. But maybe you’re going to expand on that, I’ll let you go.
Donnell: Now and I can, I can actually pick pick up on that for my comment. I wanted to follow Elizabeth’s sort of thread around the fault line. It’s because even though your community may be all white and you know, as you described it, you know, the white community, we were still wrestling with the same sort of things. And so we had longtime congregants resign from the church because we believed the science and we decided not to meet in person. And they were like, this is not a church. You know, the church is the in-person gathering of the body. And it sort of broke my heart and I still haven’t even responded to them. They wrote us a letter and sort of broke up and I didn’t handle it well. You know, I think that was, you know, a sign that I was maybe struggling because I was like, what do I say? Like, you know, even in their letter, they acknowledge, hey, we’re an at-risk group. If we get COVID, we may die. That’s something that they acknowledge, but they’re like, It’s worth it. And I was just like, wow, I, I, maybe I just don’t have enough faith and maybe I just really don’t trust Jesus enough. To say it’s okay to kill you so that we can be in person. And I just, I just, I struggled with like, what to say to them. And then that’s when I realized, like, and these were like people who loved me, not just people who liked me, people who loved me. And I’m in a white culture church, even though it’s a multiethnic church. And time is a huge thing. Right. And I, as a Black preacher, I if I get going, you know, we can be there all afternoon. And we had multiple services. So I had to make sure my sermons were tight, which is a part of why I had a reading group. And this, this family that that resigned our church. She would say to me after every sermon, you could have just kept going, I would have loved to hear more of what you had to bring out of the word. But when we pivoted, and Kate, your point of like we all had to get new skills, I have a computer science degree and I’ve done video editing, and I still wasn’t ready for the pivot from in-person with –we did simulcast our our services before the pandemic, but not a mobile first or a video first service and fortunately, one of our associate pastors husband was already on staff who had the skill set. And I mean, in, in one Sunday he pivoted the whole thing. And and when I tell the story, I always say he’s in charge of the church, because I recorded my sermon and he would put it in. The worship leader would record the worship and, and bring it together and then give it to him. Someone else would record the announcements and we would bring that together. I mean, he was spending 12 hours a week doing video editing, getting edits and then putting it together to put out this 45 minute to 50 minute service. And yeah, like just that idea of like, oh my gosh, this takes a lot of energy and a lot of resource and a lot of thoughtfulness and a lot of planning and we weren’t ready because our liturgy is, we show up, we have all the equipment, we, we, we have the congregation. So if someone’s not there, you can pull someone onto the stage to do announcements. If, if the kids ministry thing isn’t done. You know, our, our children’s pastor created a whole new kid minute that she was doing with, with eggs to do our kid lesson. I mean, just that amount of creativity was like, yeah. So those fault lines, I would actually say there were good fault lines and bad fault lines. So the good ones were, we discovered that there were a lot more talented people in our community who weren’t doing anything. And the pandemic gave them an opportunity to do something and they stepped up and oh my goodness, how grateful I was to be in the community where all these people did it. And we had some people who had depth in their their sort of approach to Scripture, in their prayers, and leading our communion. I mean, it was incredible I was like, you know, every Sunday we ask you all to do stuff and and you’re saying no.
Donnell: But like, we give you a video camera and you can run your own church. Right. And so so it was just really fantastic. And I would, I would, say that that that uncovered that we were underutilizing, I don’t want to use capitalist terms to talk about the community, but we weren’t using that. All of the gifts weren’t in operation in the community because there was an overreliance on the paid staff. And we had a large paid professional staff. And then the fault lines of social justice, as Elizabeth said, I was preaching about that and way before George Floyd and and I had written papers, and we had a founding member of our church who met with me and was like, I don’t agree with you and I don’t have anywhere to go. And I’m really sad because I feel like you’re making me just choose whether I want to stay in the community and wrestle with you or leave. And it wasn’t her. It was her son because her son had moved more conservative than they were. And she wanted the church to still be, in her mind, a welcoming place. And I was like, I know your son. I was his youth pastor. Like, if I’m having a conversation with him, it’s going to be different than the papers I’m writing. I’m not going to give him my academic paper that that’s a different context. I know how to pastor, but but we’re in my front yard six feet away in the cold. Then, you know, there’s tears and I’m I’m like, I, I don’t know what to do other than to say, like, I’m willing to listen. I’m willing to co-journey with you, but I’m not going to leave this path because I think this path that we all are on is the right path. And like Justin said, you know, we lost more than a few. I would say we lost 10- 15%. And those are the people who gave the money. So if you want to put it into real context, that’s significant loss when when, you know, we’re driven by donations and and that was hard because that’s when you start to realize, like, well, I don’t want the church to tank just because people don’t agree with me. Like, but then it’s like, then what is the church? Right? So then you get into all these sort of fun, existential questions around like, what does it mean for us to be witnesses in a community that is choosing themselves over love of neighbor? And what does it mean for us to – not to defend the gospel because the gospel never needs our defense– but I think it’s what Kate was getting to and what Justin talked about, it’s the embodied presence of the gospel. So we have a homeless ministry, which we do every Friday and never stop all through the pandemic. We continue to serve those folks. We do the only Thanksgiving meal in our city on Thanksgiving. You know, we do a real meal. And every year of the pandemic, we continued to do that meal because it was important for us to continue to embody what we said we believe ,even if it meant people were going to be upset with us.
Rose: All three of you, when you talked about the fault lines, the divisiveness, and I’ve heard this from others and Donnell you actually even said this earlier: you were losing yourself. I actually during especially, the the pastors that felt like the divisiveness, like – people in the church: we want you to talk about racism. People in the church: don’t talk about racism. That’s not the gospel. Or we could talk about vaccines and, you know, COVID deniers. The big Steal, all of those divisions. What I did hear from pastors and you did say this, but did any of you ever feel like you were losing your own soul in order to like just stay and try to hold the tension of all of this different divide?
Elizabeth: I felt a lot of pressure from folks, who, so I had one person who has left because they they don’t want to know how their pastor votes. And they said they could just tell from how I was preaching and and I don’t think the gospel changed. But I do think how our political parties are talking has changed. And I’m not sure if that’s my fault or the fault of what’s happening in the world. But I also had some of our very large donors as folks who were the ones stepping away and the reality that we were going to shrink, we are shrinking. And that I could stop that if I preach differently. If I said something else. And other folks in the congregation who just want their community to stay together, they’re so heartbroken over their friends being gone and not really understanding it. I, I started to feel that within myself, the temptation to give up myself because if I can keep the church together, and if the church can survive this, then, then somehow I am successful. And so it gets tied up into the church’s success means I’m either a good priest or a bad priest. And on top of that, Donnell, you mentioned about how exhausting Zoom was. And Justin, you mentioned how we haven’t been able go to the hospital. Losing all the places I am spiritually fed by this ministry, or the big ways in which we we get that positive feedback, that relational feedback, and that community – has been another piece I ended up just feeling so clinical and you’re just looking at names on a piece of paper about who’s upset and who’s not and you, you, the spirit and the heart could really feel absent.
Donnell: I’ll jump there now. I was waiting for Justin, but he didn’t say anything so before my sabbatical, I met with my board, and I sort of laid what you described out to them. I said I’m I’m ill equipped to hold this tension. So the trigger, one of the triggers was I had a congregant send me an email and said, I’m voting for Trump. But you talked about something on race, and I want to meet with you because I think we can partner and and it just hit me in this moment. I was like, this person and I preached about like some of the policies, like when the Muslim ban came in, I had finished my sermon, the, the just like Justin said. And, and on that Saturday or Friday night or whenever it was that Muslim ban comes in, I’m in my car listening to NPR, listening to this thing happen, and I’m having a Holy Spirit moment where I’m brought to tears about the cruelty of that action. And so I try to, you know, live in to that in the pulpit. So I bring that to the pulpit on Sunday. And without politicizing it, I just talk about the cruelty of it. I just I just say there’s something, I use strong language, you know, maybe it’s the Pentecostal in me. So there’s something demonic and anti-life in that kind of cruelty. And as people of life and light, we have to speak up against that, right? When there is the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Miami, I changed my sermon that Sunday, and I said, this is demonic. This is what this is what we mean. This is what the scripture means when it talks about demonic powers and principalities. This is what it means, right? So just trying to be very, very clear. And when I got that email from this congregant, again, another longtime congregant, parents of our our, my wife and I’s best friends, you know, I mean, these are very connected people. I was just like, I do not want to meet with you. I you you are in your voting. Whether you realize it or not, you are making a decision. And that decision has a demonstrative negative impact on me and my kids. And I don’t know what it means to have fellowship with that. And so I, I brought that to my board and I said, hey, I just want to alert you this is happening, which means I’m becoming ineffective in reaching a group of people and what do we want to do about it? And I want to just say I’m grateful for my board. They heard me. They they understood. They appointed a person on the board who would get those kinds of emails. So like if I preach something and it was just this garbage kind of response, there’s an email now where my admin– I don’t even read it–My admin sees it and she sends it directly to the board member. And then the board member responds to the congregant because I knew I was losing myself. I knew I was losing my prophetic voice. I knew in, in the idea or the ideal of trying to hold together this thing like a purple church. And and there’s some pastors that I follow on Twitter who have been really, really helpful here. Some Mennonite pastors down in the South. And Melissa, she says, I don’t know that we’re called to hold tensions like that. She’s like, I you know, if she’s the author of the book How to Have an Enemy. And so she she she’s she’s really been pushing me to sort of think about, like, what is the higher value. And I think the higher value that I’m discerning is what is, what is Jesus saying to us or what can we discern together that the spirit is saying to us in this moment and are we willing to step into it? Or because we’re going to lose money, we’re going to lose position, we’re going to lose our facility because in our system, our local churches own our facilities. Our dioceses don’t. And and we have a mortgage here, $1.4 million mortgage on ours. And so which we have to service. And and so those questions are, like you said, Elizabeth, it’s like, oh, if I just change my sermons, if I preach on tithing and I preach that this is God’s will for the country because God is restoring, you know, God’s chosen and elect folks. And these are now analogous to how these kings came to power. And we have to have these bad leaders that in order to move stuff or that the president’s not actually the leader, but the vice president is that he’s a godly man. I had that conversation with someone because they were reading all this prophetic stuff and they’re like, how can you not support this? And I was like, well, what about this? What about that? And and I was like, stop reading the Internet. Read some Quakers and Mennonite material from, you know, the 17th and 18th century. They talk about liberation, too. You know, you don’t have to is so like, yeah, I absolutely was losing myself. And I will say this, what saved me were three things. One, I had a board that was willing to listen and help me to. I had a regular group of friends that I met with every week without fail for 2 hours where they were in my church. So they knew what was going on and I could be completely open and honest with them and had trust. And three, I cultivated a network of Black pastors across my denomination and we have a text group as well as a regular meeting point. And we all check in like every time anything happens in the country, one of us sends a note to the others of us and say, How are you doing? What are you going to talk about on Sunday? What do you need? And those three things are the things that sustain me. I think through this sort of transition.
Rose: Which really brings us to sort of if you all would speak to that, Donnell, about your decision to stay in this challenging time, what factors contribute to it? So you just gave us three factors of how you have been sustained. And does that also inform your decision to stay where you are now?
Donnell: I think the staying, and thanks for asking, I think the thing that has sustained me is actually really funny, is I had a newcomer who is an immigrant to our country, who was in town to get a post-graduate, a doctorate degree, and they were visiting a whole bunch of churches and they came back to ours because it was the most multiethnic. And this person is a person of color. And I said I said something to him about like just how hard it is to pastor a multi-ethnic church and hold all this tension. And and before he even joined the church, he sort of rebuked me this sort of prophetically because I was lamenting and complaining about it. And he was and he said something that I I’ve cherished and I preached on and I’ve held he said, for every person who complains or who leaves, your church is serving a purpose for those who haven’t found a home, who haven’t found belonging, who haven’t been in fellowship with people who look like them, and God will send people to take the places of those who depart when they go and when you hear it in the moment, right? It’s like, oh, that feels good. God’s for me. You know, yay. Yay. But it’s only over time, does it actually become true. Because day by day you have to actually say goodbye and ask God and really good at saying goodbye, you know, to people, especially when they tell me, you know, having breakup meetings. I had, you know, before the call we talked about 100 funerals – I had over 100 breakup calls or meetings. And so I’ve gotten really good at sort of being in that space and holding a tension with people as they they sort of reject you. And that’s hard, you know, but with that congregants, it has been true that as we have stayed committed to what we feel like God has called us to be and to embody in our community God sends us people. And so we’re always growing and that’s just something that I can’t say, you know, it’s because of these three techniques that we do, right? Or we subscribe to this book series and we implemented these five steps and now but we see hundreds of new people a year, which is is a gift. Now, we don’t get to keep all of them. I wish we got to keep them all. But you know, if we see 500 people in a year, we’re keeping about 30% of them. And so our growth has, you know, stayed stable. And then the other thing that has sustained me is the welcome that I’ve experienced in the non-religious spaces in my city because our church does a lot of social justice work. So like we, we work for affordable housing, we work with the houseless and for my sabbatical for this last year, I have been a founding member of a group of people who are building our arms, not public safety, not police response in our city and we just got our city to allocate $3.5 million to start an unarmed police like Cahoots, which is up in the Pacific Northwest and other unarmed response programs. And it is so amazing to me to find myself to be the only person of faith or clergy who are at those tables and I have found that my city has said, here’s a space for you and we want to partner with you. We want to do this work because we know that you care about marginalized people. And I think more than anything, that witness of the gospel in our city where we don’t have an adversarial relationship but we’re always looking to partner, is something that has helped me stay like connected because I care about my city. And the reason why I care about my city is because of my faith, right? Like it informs all that I do. And I have found a partner in the city. I mean, even on my vacation, the mayor called and we are talking about something. And I you know, I stopped and my wife’s looking in and she’s like, get off the phone so we keep biking. And I was like, it’s not every day the mayor calls! He has a question. Let me see what he needs. And it’s just like that witness, that ability to partner for the common good. Oh, man. It’s like, yeah, I want to give my life to that. I want to I want to spend my days, like, making sure that those who are houseless gets housed, those who have food insecurity can be fed, that those who are struggling to make ends meet, they know they have a community of people who’s going to help them and come alongside of them. So, yeah, I think that that’s what has fueled, sort of my social interaction engagement.
Kate: And maybe to to expand the question about not just choosing to stay, but like what, because I think most pastors are facing similar burnout factors, what are the ways that you stay resilient and hopeful in those factors?
Justin: I think Kate had to get the word resilient in – just kidding.
Kate: I think that’s part of my job. You know.
Justin: You so yeah, no, I stay because the church needs me, in all my multifaceted self, and I stay because I mean it it runs deep within me, like my soul, my very soul is a part of this ministry I do. And it’s interesting to say, like, have you, have you lost part of your soul? What has kept you from losing part of your soul in this? And I stay because the people who leave, too. So there was a moment, probably my fourth month here or fifth month, and someone on leadership put a pamphlet on my table that was basically like, you have to support Trump. Because, I mean, and in that first I thought they were kidding. And like, I thought it was funny. I thought they’re giving this to me like, oh, look at this crazy thing I saw. But knowing that they were like giving it to me as a means of why I should. And part of it was super anti-LGBTQ. And like, I was like, read the room read, read, right? Yeah. And, and I wasn’t going to say anything about it. I was just going to kind of put it away but it tugged at me and tugged at me. And so I finally sat down with her and a couple of others, and I was like, this pamphlet in and of itself is very harmful to me as a person and other peoples in our community and as our mission statement. This is what it is. I just want to know, why did you think this was appropriate or why did you think this was a good place to just leave and walk away? So I would see it and she’s like, Well, I know you’re a Democrat, by the way you preach. And I just wanted you to know why being a Republican is right. And again, we had a longer, more nuanced conversation, I think. I hope. There is a church two blocks away that you’re more, like, yeah, they would love to have you and you would fit in great, and that’s one of the reasons I stay is to have that conversation because I want her to be fed. And I can’t imagine hearing me preach every week living in her body and with her thoughts and with her particular politics. I was like, That has to be exhausting for her to hear me and so the grace in letting the people find their spiritual home, even though I think it’s a spiritual home where the deconstruction of white supremacism will not happen for her. She’s also 92 and so she’s somewhere in her early nineties. But yeah, because I have lost my soul in ministry, particularly Mississippi. You brought up Pulse. I was a closeted queer kid in the Mississippi Delta and one of the most conservative white churches in our area. And woke up to the news of Pulse, and had to preach in my gospel text that week was the woman with the alabaster jar who just poured all of her stuff in front of Jesus. And I was like, How do I preach on this with all the grief that I have that I need to pour out? Like and I did. I didn’t preach as prophetically as I could have, because I think just saying don’t go into a place and shoot up people and kill them is a should be a pretty neutral statement. And but I mean, that day there was a little part of me that kind of was lost, particularly in my soul, because I, yeah, I was grieving I mean, I had been to Pulse before, so like it was it was one of those things as a queer Southerner who found safety in bars like Pulse in Orlando, Florida, there was a part of me. And so now being up here, like being able to live into that and to actually have the courage to tell someone, like, I’m probably not the right person to be your pastor and you’re definitely not the right person to be my member right now, because it’s just we’re like almost beating each other up without meaning to. And so where is a space for you where you can feel that love. And and staying. I mean, I stay, too, because it’s the conventional church and they tell us to stay or to go typically. No, but, but yeah, I, I stay because of colleagues. I stay because the Center for Transforming Engagement and what it meant for me in the early months of the pandemic, in my second year of ministry in the Pacific Northwest, what that meant to me was just immense because it gave me, even though I had done some of the stuff and I heard a lot of the presentations, it gave me community and it gave me a sense of belonging. And I have found that in the Center for Transforming Engagement, but also in small clergy groups and brain groups. And so being rooted in the church and being rooted outside of the church, and trying to be rooted with people who aren’t Christian but who are working for the good of all people, and to see where the call of Jesus and the call of Karl Marx can somehow coincide, yeah.
Elizabeth: I think there are a few factors that have helped me stay resilient and stay connected with my community. Before the pandemic, there’s a conversation I I’ll never forget of one of my parishioners who, very conservative. They and I will not agree on a lot of things, but they came to me and wanted to talk about their grandson, who they knew was gay and but also knew they had been gay since the day they were born. They had grown up and loved this person through their whole life. And I that relationship was transforming their view of the world, their view of the LGBTQ community. And I have to hope that being in a church like the one we were at helped that person be able to love their grandson, and that even though they knew I would not agree with them on sort of their politics, that they trusted me enough to come and talk to me and be doing that work. And I go back to that conversation in my mind a lot as I wrestle with, should I stay or should I go around the political conversations because I maybe it’s arrogant or self-righteous but I worry that there will the person who would– if I were to leave, who would end up in the pulpit and what would they say or what would they not say. Is my call to be a bridge builder? Or and so I’ve wrestled with that and wanting that opening to stay open for the folks who need it and want it and are willing to lean into it. If I can stay faithful to preaching the gospel rather than trying to contort myself into the type of priest that they think they need or want, which is a challenge because I am not necessarily the right person for everyone. Through the pandemic, I mean, we’ve all said it, colleagues have been so important. These connections and these relationships, people who are going through it. My diocese, the Diocese of Olympia, has been really wonderful in supporting clergy, in the bishop and his staff being present for us. They did a workshop for lay leadership on clergy, on, you know, what’s going on with clergy and clergy burnout. And so seeing that level of support, I think has been so vital for me and feeling like I’m not alone and that the Holy Spirit keeps showing up and these signs of new life that have popped up during the pandemic with a group of clergy in my diocese started doing work around feminism and white supremacy and starting to unpack that, and how it affects our church culture and finding new ways to understand myself and the gospel in light of that, seeing those signs of life and possibility have been wonderful. And I never thought this would be my life. But during the pandemic, I ended up getting more vocal on social media and finding an outlet there outside of my church pulpit and congregation where I can speak what I understand to be the truth of the gospel and really what’s very in line with my denominational practice and getting to encounter so many people who have wanted to hear the voice of progressive Christianity. So I ended up being on TikTok, which sounds ridiculous, but the number of people who had never seen a female priest before, had never seen a person in a collar say anything that I say around social justice, around Roe v Wade, around gun violence, getting an opportunity to encounter the world we don’t get to encounter because people, the unchurched, often stay away from churches where we are branded for good reason as harmful places. So getting to participate in in giving those messages and participate in some level of healing, even for people who say, I can never go back to a church, but thank you for saying this. Thank you for saying that trans people are beloved children of God. Thank you for those messages. That’s – the Holy Spirit is there, and showing up and alive and it gives me so much hope and resilience that what, as hard as it is, what we do makes a difference. And at really the core of it all is the deep relationship with the people I’m doing ministry with. I love these people. I love this congregation. Even when they drive me crazy. And it is that deep love, I think that keeps me in this particular context and knowing that we’re not done with each other, even when it’s really, really, really hard.
Rose: Well, yeah. Thank you, Elizabeth. Kate, do you want to say some final words?
Kate: Oh, I think what’s really the thing that I keep thinking about is, you know, yes, just some good, high impact resilience. Sorry. But also not sorry. That also we train people in resilience. We use a framework of people, practices, and purpose. You need to have all three. And typically where we hear clergy crutch really hard is on that purpose piece, the work that we do, the rooms that we get to be in, and the conversations that people start with us are so tender and often raw. There’s there’s so much meaning to be had there. And so it’s really easy for clergy to crutch on purpose, to neglect, neglect sometimes their relationships or their own physical and spiritual and emotional well-being. And I’m just really struck by, as the three of you were talking about, what keeps you going or where you find hope, how strong people is, and sometimes will even say the the streams of resilience should really be people, people, people, practice, purpose. And hearing these three as thriving clergy, maybe it doesn’t feel that way, but it looks that way to me. And clergy who are just so committed to your congregations, to your call in really hard context, I’m like, man, why do we even teach practice and purpose? I know why we do. But people, people, people just feels so strong. I think it’s fun to reiterate that to to myself as well as just a word of encouragement to make the space for those relationships.
Justin: And can I jump in and say yes, social media, Twitter, Twitter for me is going to map out that sometimes for better or for worse, but so I will never mind, I won’t trace that culture –But but yeah, so that but also nature of learned I mean, we’re in one of the most beautiful well, some of us are and I’ve never been in Ann Arbor so I don’t know how beautiful it is.
Kate: Also beautiful, very different, but beautiful.
Justin: And so but where I am, so I’m, I do– Fridays, I’m off all the time and I typically try not to do Thursday evenings but this was the only time I, we could all make it work for me, which is great. It’s been great. But because I knew my Thursday evening was going to be occupied, I went and just found a beach today one I hadn’t been to, that was like 20 minutes from my house, and put my hammock up, and just laid and read. And it’s those small things that we often take for granted that are even outside of our own ministry. Of just being. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that because that is something else that has really helped me in the pandemic and just in church in general.
Donnell: All right. I’m going to do my me too here for a second. So, A, I’m not on TikTok as I feel like I’m generationally challenged with TikTok. So and all the young people in my life, they laugh every time I say that. But Twitter is my outlet and I actually tell people, I tell my congregation follow me on Facebook, don’t follow me on Twitter, because I swear on Twitter and I don’t on Facebook. And then and then just like Justin. So I like I think to your point, Kate, around practice and purpose, I think there are, especially in our context where we are liturgically challenged as evangelicals, but we have a liturgy. Of course, we all know that we we don’t always have those rhythms built in. And I know some of the work that Rose has done for our denomination around spiritual direction, and we actually have spiritual directors, and we’ve trained spiritual directors in our church. And I utilize them from time to time. Because they’ve been helpful. I do want to say I have a counselor and I met with a counselor every week for a year, you know, and and I and I like to say that out loud because I think as clergy, the, the thing that challenges the work that we do is that often we have to do it in isolation. Even though we’re in community, we’re always in community. We actually don’t do anything outside the community. Often we’re still in isolation because not everybody is reading email. You don’t know how that email landed and if I wake up and I read the email and it’s the nasty email, then that’s my whole day. Like, I’m I know how to compartmentalize, but I’m still human. And when you call me names and when you say I’ve lost my anointing and where, you know, I’m preaching a false gospel, I’m just like, I mean, am I Jesus? Is this you? Like, is this a two or three kind of email was once I get the third one, I’m ready to give up. So so having those places, those sort of objective spaces maybe. So whether it’s a spiritual director or a spiritual friend or professional counselor or therapist, where we can bring our whole selves into those spaces, I think is a preventative tool that we can use to help us with burnout. Because the thing that has become so clear to me was just how much emotional– what is– it’s emotional labor that we do that is hard to transfer further to others. Even as I was preparing for a sabbatical, you know, my associate who is become the interim due to him asking all these questions and I was like, I can’t actually tell you what to do. You got to wait till you get the email, have the emotional response, see where you feel and then you’ll you’ll come up with the solution, you know, and I mean, I, I think, you know, call me if, if it’s really horrible. And I’ll tell you what I did in that situation. But I think that sort of we don’t talk a lot about that. We just don’t talk about the burden of the emotional labor that we carry for our congregations. And when people call us, like Elizabeth told the story of that grandson or that, you know, that relative, you know, she has to carry that emotional burden and she’s carrying it on both sides. She’s carrying the burden of the the person that this person cares about or is concerned about. And she’s carrying it for that congregant. And she has her own intersections of all of that. And then it’s like where, who do you talk to? Like, I’ll finish a premarital session in a session with someone and they disclose some things. And I’m just like, who’s my confessor? Now you all, you have bishops, so you can call your bishop and say, I need to, I need to confess what I just heard in this session, you know, so that I can hold on it. And I developed that with a friend, Jim Rose– you know, Jim –and, and he’s that person that, I, he’s in a ministry context that’s similar to mine. And I can just call him and unload what’s happened. And he just, he’s a trained spiritual director as well. So he just listens. And then he asks questions. He pokes and says, Where is God? What are you sensing and what do you feel like you need to do? And I would just say, as you all are doing the work that you’re doing, just that emphasis to say, figure this out. Most denominations will pay for it. You can use your professional development to get reimbursed for it. Your health insurance will cover it, in most cases. It’s something that’s important. And then the last thing and Justin already said it so I’m just MeTooing it. And what is the best decision I made in my life was three years ago. I think it was the end of 2018, the beginning of 2019. I bought an e-bike, and I’ve put over 6,000 miles on the e-bike, and I am not a nature person. I grew up in the inner city, you know, we had concrete and asphalt that, that was my life. My wife, she loves, every day she goes for a walk in the woods, she draws birds, she prays, you know, without ceasing, like I was just like, Yeah, you’re the real Christian, I’m the paid one. But I actually found my spirituality, as it were, in nature on my e-bike, because I’m able to be in community, because I thrive on people, but I’m able to be alone. And so, yeah, I just want to echo what I heard Justin say, because I just I think what he shared in that closing thing is just worth its weight in gold.
Elizabeth: Thank you for saying the thing about therapy. My therapist has been absolutely vital for me –and medication. Jesus is not a replacement for mental health care. I mean, you need Jesus and your doctors too. So I appreciate hearing other clergy say that. And I’ll echo it as well because I want others in the world to hear you know, that’s what we do to take care of ourselves as well.
Kate: Thank you all. Well, I want to respect our time and we’re coming to a close. So I want to say thank you all for being here and being open about the challenges that you’re facing and more so even the the very messy places and ways that you find hope and find meaning in that hope, so thank you all for being with us today.
Rose: Thank you.