What We Know
Many of you have already seen it, but in case you haven’t: the current issue of Circuit Rider (May/June/July 2010) features three articles on Clergy Health.
Melissa Rudolph writes on the physical health challenges of United Methodist clergy, and gives an overview of the efforts of general boards and different Annual Conferences to meet the challenge. Lawrence LaPierre, retired United Methodist elder and VA hospital chaplain, has a piece about anxiety among clergy, strategies for self-care, ways that pastors in connection can help one another, and options for professional help. And Brian Bauknight writes confessionally about the transition from ministry into retirement and the surprising pitfalls he encountered.
The theme of the whole issue is Global Health, one of the Four Areas of Focus embraced by the 2008 General Conference. There is a lovely foreword by Bishop Sally Dyck of the Minnesota Annual Conference. Bishop Dyck puts clergy health in the context of global health, and reminds us that from Jesus to the early church fathers to John Wesley to the present day, health promotion is integrally related to ministry.
"Stick to what you know," I’ve been told. When people say that, they usually mean that I and, by implication, also the Church should stick to telling people about Jesus and forget about eradicating malaria and addressing HIV/AIDS, health care reform, pandemics, the environment, and the causes and concerns around what I would call the "clergy health pandemic" in which systemic issues have converged over the last decades to cause a rapid decline in the physical and mental health of clergy.
Jesus not only healed people but said to his disciples, "Heal the sick!" Sounds like a commandment to me...
Offering the Great Physician to others is to offer a path to physical as well as spiritual life and health. Will the Church have an evangelistic heart by offering a sense of calm and preparedness in the midst of future pandemics as we have in the past? We need to stick to what we know and have done throughout the ages as Christians and in the United Methodist Way: heal the sick!
As Christians we are called to healing ministries, and we walk in a glorious tradition of caring for the afflicted, and enabling health and wellness among all God’s people. We know this in our very bones and sinews; we merely need to recover the knowledge.
John James, M.A.
Clergy Health Initiative