After a summer of recovery and recuperation I was hoping I’d feel better for the start of term. The start has been slow, with many ups and downs and I’ve come to realise that among many things my surge capacity is depleted.
I found this article by Tara Haelle incredibly helpful in helping me understand myself. After sharing it widely many friends got in touch to say how much they identified with it. So I decided to start a series on living life in the midst of a pandemic. I’ve invited friends from different professions to respond. The first two blogs are written by my friend Sarah Dawkins.
“Lets do it online”.
Familiar words in 2020. The first time I heard them was mid March. Government guidance about unnecessary travel had just been announced and so it wasn’t going to be possible for us to meet for the weekend conference we had been planning. That was the start of doing ministry on a screen.
We spent 72 hours reducing the weekend into a day conference, getting to grips with the largely unknown tool of zoom and hoped for the best! It was new and exciting. We had speakers who were willing to learn overnight how to speak well on camera, from thinking about eye contact to which part of the twins bunkbeds was best to balance the laptop on. We had people join us from all over Europe, the reach of the conference was bigger than any of the organising team could ever have hoped for. And at the end of that day, we were thrilled! Maybe doing ministry online was going to be ok. I collapsed on my sofa at the end of the day and ordered a takeaway. We’d done it. And we’d done it well. But I was exhausted.
That was March. This is September. And largely my reflections are the same. Technology has enabled some ministry to continue and it has been ok. Often even better than ok! Even seeing new things start and grow. We’ve learnt new skills, finally figured out how to share screens and assign breakout rooms, and seen people grow in faith.
It has also been exhausting.
Lockdown and not being able to see friends, work or go to church without looking at a screen was exhausting. Adjusting to being able to see people at a social distance and the implications that had for work and life was exhausting. Constantly adapting plans to reflect changing guidelines and local lockdowns is exhausting and to be frank, weary making.Tweet
This isn’t specific to those of us who work in ministry roles of course. The entire nation, and world is facing many of the same challenges. They’re not specific to those who follow Jesus, let alone those of us who are in gospel work. But the way in which we experience them will be different.
How do we as gospel workers approach the new academic year? Our ministry may not be tied to education, but there’s something about September that seems to signal a new start. And yet the world doesn’t seem that different to March in lots of ways! We still need to be creative in how we do ministry (and everything else!). We still don’t know what the future holds.
How can we approach this September without adding to our exhaustion and weariness? Could we even hope for joy and energy in the term ahead?Tweet
The great news is yes, I think we can! But not because of who we are. This post came about through an ongoing text chat with a friend in which we checked in with each other every couple of weeks to see how we were doing, and the answers were the same every time. We were tired. Finding online ministry a struggle. And weary. Seeing the impacts on our mental health and the rest of life. And I know that there’s more than the two of us in this place!
I wonder if you’ve had time to stop this summer? Time to reflect on the last six months. To recognise the losses, the struggles and the reality of how our life and ministry has changed. Or if you’re more like me, you’ve felt pressure to fill your diary to prove you’re doing things, that your supporters aren’t wasting their prayers and money by partnering with you, all the time hiding how you’re really doing?
In part two we’ll think about some specific themes that can help us as we go forward to the new term, but now I want to encourage you take a moment and stop. Lament is biblical and right. Yet we rarely allow ourselves to do it, instead saying things like “I’m fine, it could be worse”. That may be true, but it doesn’t allow for the fact that everybody faces different struggles. Just because something could be worse doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard!
“Come to me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:18)
That’s what our God says to us. To you. Yup you. You who doesn’t believe it could be true for you.
This is the God who sees us (Genesis 16:13), who knows us (Psalm 139) and is for us (Romans 8:31).
These are truths that don’t change even when the world is changing constantly.
If it helps here’s some questions to help process the last few months:
What have the losses been for me in ministry and personally? (list the little to the big!)
How did I react to them? What does that reaction show me about what I’m valuing?
How am I feeling about Jesus? Do I believe that he sees me, knows me and is for me?
Sarah currently works as the Regional Development Director for Friends International in the South West. She’s worked in ministry roles since graduating despite applying for many secular roles!