Clergy Faith & Wellness: Help end stigma around clergy physical health

Rev. Shelly Petz


This is the faith and wellness blog I didn’t want to write. I have shied away from the topic of physical health, out of fear that I would hurt someone with whatever I would say. I feared that nothing I could write on physical health would be able to also express care for my clergy colleagues. I know too many who have experienced body shaming from other people, and I grieve this. I also believe that there is a stigma around talking about physical health for a variety of reasons. I would love to be a part of helping to end the stigma around clergy physical health and give permission to each of you to talk about your own physical health as needed. 

Clergy in the Great Plains Conference were given permission to end the stigma around mental health last January at the Clergy Orders & Fellowship meeting from Rev. Kevass Harding. Bishop Saenz also shared his own journey and struggle regarding physical health. It began to crack open the door to conversations and yet how we talk about this together can still be overwhelming. 

I recently had a conversation with a clergy colleague who shared her own journey of how difficult talking about physical health can be. She never wanted to talk about it, out of fear of being further ridiculed. Yet when she and I talked about our own fears of talking about physical health, coming at it from different experiences, I realized more clearly how widespread and universal our fears are. 

We live in a culture of comparison which can lead to a culture of rejection — rejection of others and ourselves. I wonder, in my own fear of talking about physical health, if I am my worst enemy. 

I have come to understand that people are also motivated in different ways. For some of you, hearing first that you are beloved for who you are will be helpful talking about physical health. You are God’s child, with whom God is well pleased. For others, I want to commend you on how great you have been doing on achieving the milestones you have set forth for yourself. To you who are out running the 5ks, half marathons, and triathlons, I applaud you. To those who need the time and space to think about what it means, I honor that. To you who want to try riding a unicycle onstage, while blowing bubbles ... you go! 

You know best what motivates you and your physical health. It may not be what motivates and encourages even those closest to you. 

So today, I offer the question to you, how would you describe personal flourishing physical health for you? How does living that out affect your ministry? 

I invite you to find a safe space to talk about your own personal physical health and how you understand God using it for the making, forming, transforming, equipping, building, loving, valuing, and/or having fun with other disciples on the journey. Further, who could you partner with on a journey to healthier living? 

Grace and peace,
Rev. Shelly Petz
Clergy Faith and Wellness