I don’t know for sure, but it feels to me like this pandemic has been especially hard for pastors and other professional church workers. Most professional leaders seem to be enduring all of this—quiet and uncomplaining—even when they might feel alone in keeping their congregations functioning.
Many of them have also had to deal with the burden of keeping their congregations financially viable. Their primary callings—Word and Sacrament, service, education, administration—may have become more difficult to carry out. Much of their work has become dependent on text and e-mail messages, YouTube and online meeting platforms. Face-to-face ministry has disappeared behind masks. Home and hospital visits have required completely new approaches. Congregational functions or programs have been reduced or eliminated. Leaders and volunteers have remained cloistered in their homes, limited in offering their talents to the congregation’s institutional health. What’s been restricted by the pandemic seem to be the very things church workers are really good at doing. That’s got to be frustrating.
Granted, there have been benefits to this redefining of congregational ministry. Perhaps more time for thought, planning, reading, prayer, study, sermon preparation and self-care. Creativity has blossomed, lifestyle priorities have been sharpened, schedules have become more manageable. Questions about meaning and purpose have been examined more closely.
While I’m not certain if any of what I’ve imagined here is true, one thing I am convinced of: The pastors and other professional staff in our congregations could benefit from our presence, our insights, our gratitude. As older adults, you and I may have a special place in the other side of pastoral care: Taking care of those who have cared for us. Assuring them about their capabilities to fulfill their vocations.
We can work out the details, I’m sure….