It’s been more than a 18 months since I sat down and focused on writing. The pandemic struck and so many of the things that had always sustained me were shoved to the back burner… except I forgot to tun on the burner, so it’s just sat there, doing nothing, for the past year and a half.
Like most pastors, I wasn’t ready for the sudden shift that happened when COVID shut our world down.
Since I pastor a smaller (and older) congregation, we weren’t ready for the sudden switch to a technology-heavy worship style.
Fortunately, I grew up on computers, so I have a better grasp of technology than some of my older colleagues. But still, there was a huge learning curve because I was having to use technology in ways I’d never imagined. I spent long hours watching YouTube videos and searching Google, trying to problem solve one glitch after another. I had to learn how to use programs for which I had never had a need. I had to become a tech support person for my congregants, spending time on the phone walking people through one issue after another. This also meant I had to learn to use devices I don’t even own so that I knew where to point a person to find the proper settings.
When I met with my District Superintendent recently, I told her that “burnout” wasn’t the right word for what I was feeling. “Exhaustion” was better. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that is the best way to describe what I’m feeling.
We pastors went from being resident theologians for our congregations to becoming the resident technology expert, public health translator, fact-checker, hoax spotter, and mediator between the “there’s nothing to fear” and “this is doomsday” groups that formed in our communities. It was, and is, exhausting.
So, after spending my day on one Zoom meeting after another, editing videos, and trouble shooting tech issues, I didn’t feel like going to my computer in the evening when, in pre-pandemic times, I would sit down and reflect. Those reflections poured out of me as writings and as a balm for my soul. It was refreshing, kept me connected to God, and simply allowed me to work through all the thoughts and events I had been working through.
Writing, I have always said, is one of my favorite and best-developed spiritual disciplines.
I wrote in journals.
I wrote blogs.
I wrote articles for newsletters.
I wrote terrible poems.
I wrote liturgies.
I wrote short stories.
However, over the past few weeks, I’ve been getting a grip on what the pandemic stole from me by reclaiming parts of my life.
I’ve challenged myself to do a virtual pilgrimage through The Conqueror Challenges (I chose The Saint Francis Way), which required a lot of walking in my own neighborhood. I began to feel better, physically. Although it wasn’t my intention at the start, I began to lose a little weight. I wasn’t carrying as much stress in my shoulders. I was drinking a lot more water and making better choices on food. And, most importantly, I was listening to audio books and podcasts about St. Francis, which helped my realign my soul with God.
Like dominoes, once I began reclaiming one small part of my life, I was able to reclaim others.
And so, here I am—challenging myself to reclaim that spiritual discipline that has carried me through hard times my whole life: writing.
I walked my virtual pilgrimage by myself—but this time, I’m challenging the church I serve to join me on this new adventure. I’ve asked them to read and pray the Psalms over the next few weeks and promised them I would do the same. I’ve invited them to follow along with my reflections (which I’ll be posting here) and to share their reflections as well.
So, I’m back! and I have a mission!—and that mission is to let my soul cry out to God through the same Psalms David used so long ago.
They are still relevant, and I look forward to seeing what God will ignite in my spirit as I take back one more part of my life.