Pastors often serve as an emotional anchor for their flock: providing a listening ear, advice, and social cohesion for their congregation members. And we’ve all needed more of those supports as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. Pastors, in turn, need additional support themselves as they offer that vital emotional labor to their communities.
This summer, Eastern Mennonite Seminary hosted the “Navigating Ministry During COVID-19” online forum series for pastors. Recordings of each seminar are available for for viewing online here.
Topics included pastoral care and spiritual formation for pastoral resilience, trauma-informed ministry, theological questions during anxious times, biblical resources, ethical issues of medical care, and revisioning church after COVID-19.
“We are inviting you this afternoon to a time of spiritual rejuvenation, communal learning, and self reflection,” said Professor Sarah Bixler as she opened the webinar on spiritual formation for resilience, in which ministry leaders talked about the signs of pastoral fatigue and spiritual practices to sustain themselves in the face of burnout.
Bixler said afterwards that the forums “turned out to be so much more than we had initially envisioned.”
After the forum, she and co-facilitator Hyacinth Stevens, the program coordinator for MCC East Coast in New York City, heard from “ministry leaders who expressed a deep need for renewal during this trying time – and who are using the tangible tools we offered to find their way. It was also remarkable to see attendees offer encouragement and creativity to one another during the forums.”
Over 150 people registered for the forums: mostly pastors, joined by others like chaplains, denominational and church staff, lay leaders, and theological faculty. They represented nine different denominations, 23 states, and five countries outside the U.S.
The pastors “who came together from across the country and around the world to share and participate in this learning community reinforced the resiliency of our pastors and church workers,” said church relations director and co-organizer Veva Mumaw.
“This series has impressed me with how the strongest leaders across the church find ways to lead together even during a time of felt isolation. God’s Spirit has brought courage and hope through this expression of Christian community,” Bixler said.