If you are someone I have recently met at the Perkins Mentor Training or General Conference, welcome to this blog! In it, I try to address concerns which I face as a 50+ yr. clergy person marking 25 years under appointment in the UMC! Feel free to reply with your comments or suggestions!
And the question comes out of my own pursuit of a spiritual practice. Blogging is writing and so it can be form of spiritual discipline. A spiritual director seems to agree and encourages likewise.
As you are probably aware, the UMC wants (is desperate?) to recruit younger (under 35+) clergy for its aging leadership. Many judicatories are starting special "spotted owl" settings where these folks can meet to experience more community and support. When it comes to clergy over 35, it seems if you have survived that long, you have been thoroughly institutionalized in a sense, and that in itself can take a toll on spirituality, not to mention mind and body health. So can life!
To serve and to give from the full cup is only healthy. To want this is a yearning that I believe is given to us by the One Spirit who called and gifted us. There are many ways to pursue this- but it comes down to a change in self rather than a change in the church at large. Or anything outside of the self.
When I was five years out of Duke Divinity and in my second staff position, the pastoral counselor (who happened to be a Presbyterian clergy), compared the clergy ladder to an "iceberg"- very difficult to ascend with lots of slipping and sometimes sliding down. I think he was pretty accurate on many levels, as well as the spiritual level. The official line from the institution is all about effectiveness while being spiritual. For the benefit of all concerned, I guess. "Clergy need both (fruitfulness and spirituality) in order to be successful," words spoken by a seminary leader just last year (L. Weems). But the motivation for your own health, self- care, and wholeness, has to come from you for you are the one who will reap the most immediate consequences.
A guided retreat with a spiritual director is a good start. There you will have a chance to reflect on where you are, where you need to be, and how you can begin a new spiritual practice to foster a deeper experience of God's love wherever you are.
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