Clergy Faith and Wellness: Permission to take care of yourself

Rev. Shelly Petz


 Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up. – Proverbs 12:25 (NRSV)
Consider the following statement.
This Advent I…

  • am experiencing anxiety, stress, fear, like there is too much too do, etc.
  • am centered in the word of God.
  • am doing all my spiritual practices that I can, and still stressed.
  • wait ... what? It is time for Advent?
Yes, Advent is here. The time of preparation for the coming of Christ. Sometimes preparations are meaningful, powerful, or life-changing. Sometimes preparations are stressful, stress-filled, overwhelming, looming, even to the point of making a person sick – physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.
Each of us handles stress and anxiety differently. You may be a person who thrives on it, or it may be debilitating. It may affect you differently at various points of your life, or you may be able to go with the flow. From personal experience, and conversations with clergy and laity, I know that there are times when clergy put their ministry settings ahead of personal well-being. Advent can be one of those times.
Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, co-principal investigator of the Duke Clergy Health Initiative, and Jason Byassee, the Butler chair in Homiletics and Biblical Hermeneutic at Vancouver School of Theology, teamed up to write the book “Faithful and Fractured: Responding to the Clergy Health Crisis.” Proeschold-Bell will be the keynote speaker for our Orders & Fellowship gathering Jan. 16-17 at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.
In their book, the authors examine why pastors are in such poor health and possible ways to address the problem.
“When we ran a health intervention for clergy, we found that clergy needed to be given permission to take care of themselves over and over again,” the authors write.
Clergy, this is an invitation to give yourself permission to take care of yourself these Advent and Christmas seasons. Congregations and people of various ministry settings, this is an invitation to be proactive in support of and to work alongside clergy. Clergy, life and work for those whom you serve also can be filled with stress and anxiety. May the stress you experience be transformed by the grace of God and serve as a bridge to understanding others.
As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands. – Psalm 119.143 (NLT)

The Rev. Shelly Petz is an ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference. Her blog provides resources and reflections for clergy and congregational wellness. Its aim is to invite clergy and congregations to live their best life, connect to God as their source, and explore wellness in areas of physical, mental, and spiritual health.