They have given up hospital visits because no one was allowed in.
They have given up time with family, friends, colleagues, parishioners, and community partners.
They have given up presiding over huge wedding celebrations because numbers for gatherings have been limited.
They have given up funerals and grief work as they knew it.
They have given up rituals in their own lives and in their communities of faith that mark mountain top journeys and valleys of deaths.
They have given up full sanctuaries for Easter and Christmas and are now looking at what another Easter will be like.
They have given up on doing things “like they have always done” because things are not the same as they have always been.
They have given up on sermons that have had to be rewritten and reworked so many times because things change everyday.
They have given up sleep, self-care, routines, plans and dreams.
They have given up potluck gatherings, handshakes and hugs, choirs of four-part harmonies singing side by side, sharing of a common cup for intinction, mission trips, in person Annual Conference and Orders & Fellowship.
They have given up beautifully orchestrated worship, carefully thought-out plans, big ordination, baptism, confirmation and retirement celebrations, welcome parties for new pastors, and saying goodbye to congregations in ways that are familiar to itinerant pastors.
So what does this Lent look like for pastors who have given up so much?
Maybe it looks like embracing the gift of recognizing that they are not in control.
Maybe the pastors explore the reality that they do not have to and in fact cannot do all things for all people all of the time.
Maybe it looks like the early church, where awe came upon everyone because so many incredible things were being done by pastors and laity alike, in the name of God. Maybe we see and believe in the things we as the Body of Christ share in common and help each other as we have need. Maybe we spend much time in prayer, having glad and generous hearts, and praising God.
Maybe pastors this Lent are a part of a new awakening to the presence of God in their very midst like they have never experienced before, because they didn’t know how much they needed to.
Maybe this Lent, for Pastors who have given up so much, it is a season of remembering their call, listening to the movement of the Holy Spirit, wrestling with what it means, and being open to this season between what was and what will be.
Clergy colleagues, I cannot thank you and praise you enough for the continual pivoting, praying, leading, and ministry of which you are a part. My prayer for you this Lenten season is that you will make space for intentional body, mind, and spirit work for yourself as you invite this for others.
You have given up so much, tried out so much new, and are living out imperative, creative, and intentional ministry.
Yet to come, I imagine that there will be delayed personal and communal grief, navigating continual emerging ministry needs, uncovering deep faith and spiritual questions.
I pray this season of Lent will allow you time for what you need, even before you may even know how to ask for that. Maybe this Lent you will offer yourself permission, forgiveness, love, the gift of Sabbath, the aid of another, or grace. If not for your sake, for Christ’s sake.