CTE’s Principal Officer for Pentecostal, Charismatic and Multicultural Relations, Shermara Fletcher, shares our Reflection of the Month for June 2021…
During one of the most challenging times of our modern era, the Christian landscape has risen to the challenge. Across the nation, Pastors, Priests, Clergy, laity, Christian led homelessness shelters, medical staff, transport drivers, Christians in our political arenas and across the ecumenical family and landscape, to mention a few, have tirelessly and often silently worked together to help bring stability to communities in turmoil.
This often selfless output has prompted me to not only celebrate the formidable commitment demonstrated across the nation, but more importantly to remind and challenge every reader of this reflection that to sustain a ministry in a context of rapid change, deep lament, sorrow and loss, fast moving technology, innovation and artificial intelligence, political polarity and communities fragmented by divisive populism, that you also need to focus on sustaining yourself.
Now, you may say, “but focusing on oneself goes against our Christian values” and to be selfless is a mark of Christian humility” and “selfishness is not a character trait we should promote”. And I would agree with you to an extent, but I want to highlight that sustaining oneself is the only way you will be able to continue to be available for God to help you to sustain others. This may seem glaringly obvious, and the simplicity of this reflection is not to patronise, but I find it interesting that one of Jesus’s departing discussions with his disciples was reminding them that the greatest commandment was to love their neighbours as they love themselves and this can be found up to thirteen times across the New and Old Testament.
So, what does this mean for us today?
Well, like the disciples, many clergy, laity, and disciple making communities across the nation, who are involved in life changing ministry, often have the predisposed and commendable character trait to put people before themselves; sometimes at the expense of self-care. Jesus’s model of implementing patterns of rest, alone time with God and leisure with friends in his ministry reminds us to resist the attractive temptation to focus on the first half of this command “ to love your neighbour” in the name of “following Jesus” and doing the mission of forming disciples. Jesus teaches us the importance of balance and self-care so that we can effectively and willingly love our neighbour without resentment and burnout.
Now, what does this practically look like?
It looks like rest, contemplation, meditation, setting boundaries with yourself, your ministry and dare I say it even your congregants, communities, and family. Jesus reminds us of the importance of setting boundaries in our schedule for rest, spiritual devotion, and renewal. We see this in his own ministry which was birthed out of a season of retreat into the wilderness.
Pope Francis reminds us that ‘rest is necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us. But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us”.
Pope Francis’ reminder of the need to hear God’s voice suggests that there are many alternative voices in our society and even in our church and ecumenical pursuits that compete for our attention. Francis shows us that rest leads to revelation, which ensures our ecumenical purpose and outputs are based on the people God wants us to reach, before the programmes we want to implement.
And finally, despite our capitalist productivity driven culture, rest does not mean inaction. Rest brings renewal, clarity and adds a better quality to our contribution to God’s activity in our communities. And for those involved in Christian ministry and the promotion of ecumenical unity, rest reminds us that we have been entrusted to be stewards of the ecumenical journey and not the owners of it and that its success does not hang on us, but on God.
The challenges the church faces in the present and the future around racial injustice and the inequity that many people face in our communities, climate change effecting the breathing quality and economical landscape across the world, recovering from a pandemic and the work we need to do in bridging the links between communities; rest will be required. So, I challenge you this week to schedule up to an hour of self-care, reflection, mediation, to read a favourite book, movie or however you experience rest and add it to the rhythm of your week. You can also tap into to the spiritual practices and retreat methods of other Christian traditions in the ecumenical family. You deserve it.
Explore some spiritual retreats for refreshment and selfcare (from the Church Times)