Rest for their Souls: Conference Announces “Clergy Care Grants”
“Come to me, all you that are weary & are carrying heavy burdens, & I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, & learn from me; for I am gentle & humble in heart, & you will find rest for your souls.” —Matthew 11:28-29
When it comes to our collective experience of this pandemic, nearly all of us can agree: it has been utterly exhausting.
Parents of school-aged children are worn out from juggling their children’s remote learning and their paid work last year—and from the constant worry of COVID exposure at schools this year. Many of us have felt our energies depleted by the inability to freely and comfortably gather with our families, friends, and congregational communities. Leaders in all types of organizations are beyond tired from the non-stop adapting that’s been required. And the anxiety that accompanied so many aspects of this pandemic season – the chronic uncertainty, our sense of danger and risk, financial stresses, heightened societal tensions – has taken its toll on even the most resilient among us.
Our pastors are exhausted, too.
Pastors in congregations have had to make hard decisions about how best to safeguard the health of their congregants and their own health, weighing all the implications of those decisions for congregational life. They’ve had to adapt in ways their theological education probably never prepared them for, learning new skills and re-thinking every aspect of routine ministry. Often, they had to do so amid diverse opinions and mounting pressure from within their own congregations and communities. And they did all of it without the life-giving, daily interactions that fed their spirits and enriched their ministries in non-pandemic times.
Other authorized ministers in our Conference have also experienced unimaginable stressors. Chaplains were serving on the front lines in our hospitals and nursing homes and hospice settings, of some of the places most besieged in the worst months of the pandemic. Others were ministering in non-profit settings where the justice issues their organizations addressed became even more pronounced and difficult, or in academic settings that were also experiencing immense upheaval.
One of our roles as the Conference is to provide support and care to our clergy leaders, knowing that healthy clergy contribute to healthy ministry. In this unique moment, the Conference is inviting congregations to join with us to supply an extra dose of care and gratitude to our clergy across the Conference.
From now until May 2022, the Conference is offering Clergy Care Grants to congregations. These grants are designed to help congregations say “thank you” to their pastors and acknowledge in some meaningful way the toll this pandemic season has placed on clergy. Grants must be submitted by elected lay leaders in congregations. They can also be utilized to offer a token of thanks to authorized ministers who are members of your congregations and serving in specialized ministries like chaplaincy, social justice ministry, or higher education.
More details are being sent to each church by regular mail this week, to the attention of moderators or council presidents. We encourage every congregation’s elected lay leaders to consider submitting a grant request for this purpose and to consult with your pastor about what kind of support would be most helpful to them.
Jesus promised rest for all whose souls were weary, and to ease our burdens when the yoke of discipleship feels heavy. In this time when all of us understand the exhaustion of these unprecedented months, I celebrate our clergy who have so faithfully served among us. I urge your congregation to apply for a Clergy Care Grant and to join me in offering these servant leaders heartfelt gratitude and gracious space for renewal and rest.
Grace and peace,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister