After my first year in seminary, I spent a summer driving all over the country interviewing clergywomen about their experiences in ministry. The next summer I intended to do a few more interviews and write a book about the significance of support in the practice of ministry. The book never came to fruition, but whereas I spent that first summer largely cut off from easy access to all my primary support networks, the second summer I worked with a therapist weekly and a spiritual director and spent lots of time with my (then) significant other, (now) husband. I ended summer two healthier, in every respect, than I ended summer one. I learned from those clergywomen and from my experience of a lonely summer of travel how vitally important it is to have support in one’s practice of ministry.
Nonetheless, my first call, while in many ways glorious, was also tremendously lonely. Being a solo pastor in a county with more cows than people… beginning at the age of 26… well, friendship was challenging (though I count many in that community as friends now)… and collegial relationships often strained… thank God for my husband… and my hometown an hour and a half away where I connected with a great therapist (who works with me from a distance even today!) and eventually for a collegial covenant group with pastors from two presbyteries. AND my goodness, THANK GOD for my blogging community– such a lifeline of support in the latter years of that call.
While in my Ph.D. program for the next six years I enjoyed marvelous support from mentors and colleagues… and sought to provide support to those around me. Right now, the first friend I made in my program and I are in the end stages of our dissertations and we are checking in almost weekly to encourage one along. We hope to defend the same week and graduate together in May. May it be so! We have seen each other through and cheered each other on through so many hurdles… surely we can scale this one– together– too!
And now, here I stand, precisely one month in to my second parish call. A parishioner this week expressed concern that my colleague and I will burn out. I assured her that I’m taking care of myself and that I am well connected to numerous supports. And indeed, I am. It’s breathtaking really. To have only been here a month and to feel so thoroughly supported… THANKS BE TO GOD. Part of this feeling can be attributed to the gift of a co-pastor. Often when things are feeling too big, too overwhelming (and they do… often enough) I walk into her office and we talk it through… and share the load. I walk out of her office infinitely lighter. And, I still have that amazing husband, and now my sweet daughter. And great colleagues nearby. But I also have connected, in the past three years, to an incredible support community that I find EVERYWHERE I go. Northern Indiana included! And to top it all off, I found a yoga studio and teacher here who is JUST what I need right now.
It was actually the teaching of that yoga teacher that got me thinking about support today. It was a restorative class and she was focusing on the principle of non-attachment/letting go… and we used all manner of props throughout our hour plus together. She encouraged us, to let go more and more with each breath as we relaxed over the props– blocks, blankets, tennis balls, bolsters… She talked about the blessing of receiving support and offering support.
And so I knew what would be the focus of my first blog post of the NaBloPoMo challenge… getting me back on the blogging wagon… at last. It seems wholly appropriate to renew my practice of blogging with this as my focus… because, as I said already, I found precisely the support I craved through my first blog, in my first call. May it be so with this second blog, in this second call too.
So friends, clergy and others, what support do you cherish?