“Then I heard the voice of God saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8)
October is often referred to as “Clergy Appreciation Month.” I have no idea who declared it such. But I know this: any reason to celebrate our clergy is good enough for me.
The Barna Group, a research organization that focuses on religion, reported that as of March 2022, 42% of pastors had considered quitting full-time ministry in the year prior. The numbers are particularly alarming among clergy under the age of 45. The reasons identified are numerous: the incredible stress of ministry, loneliness and isolation, and the difficulty of navigating political divisions in ministry settings. As is true in many other sectors since the pandemic, “the great resignation” is a phenomenon with real implications for the Church and our collective ministries in the world.
In light of these concerns, “clergy appreciation month” seems like a pretty great idea. Better yet would be if each of us were intentional in every month of the year about thanking clergy who are our pastors, chaplains, community organizers, non-profit leaders, academics and teachers. Better still: cultivate an environment of consistent care and support for the clergy member in your congregation or place of ministry. Honor healthy boundaries that protect their time off to rejuvenate and rest. Encourage and resource efforts to shore up their network of support and strengthen personal well-being. Practice good communication, transparency, and generous grace with one another when tensions or disagreements arise. And strive always to build relationships and faith communities marked by Christ-like love, mercy, and compassion.
As I contemplate my coming departure as your Conference Minister, and reflect on all the things for which I am grateful in these ten years of ministry with you, one thanksgiving I lift is most certainly for our clergy in the Minnesota Conference UCC. I’ve witnessed their dedication to service, their genuine love for those to whom they minister, their creativity amid challenges, their passion for justice, and their desire to be faithful in every season. I’m in awe of their continual willingness to respond, “Here am I, send me!” when God calls. My prayer is that this Conference, each of our congregations, and all those places in which our clergy serve would be spaces where that joyful “yes” is celebrated and affirmed.
Thank you, clergy. Thank you for your ministries among us all. We are blessed by your service.
Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister