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Burnout. Just reading the word is enough to cause the shoulders to droop, the body to want to curl up in a ball and find somewhere to rest. For many church leaders it can be an ever-present companion in the life and ministry of the congregation.
One of my earliest memories of feeling fully spiritually alive beyond the church was in my mother’s kitchen. My family often entertained guests, and the time put into preparing meals was a gesture of hospitality and caregiving.
The Presbyterian Church of the Siuslaw in Florence, Oregon, displays a large Celtic cross on its property. That cross inspired a unique ministry for longtime church member Andy J. LaTomme Jr. For nearly three decades, the 99-year-old has been giving out wooden replicas of that cross to church members and visitors alike.
In the minds of many Presbyterians, the concept of stewardship is forever linked to the church’s fall fundraising campaign to support the budget. This multi-week drive culminates in “Stewardship Sunday,” during which pledge cards are brought forward and prayers are offered that the money represented there will be enough. This process makes some people so uncomfortable that they confess to skipping church, claiming, “I don’t want to listen to talk about money for an entire month.”
The pastor glumly ordered a salad with dressing on the side. Her lunch companion wondered whether her friend would rather have had a greasy hamburger instead. The pastor’s sour mood, though, wasn’t about healthy food choices. It was about the choice her session had made to lock the doors during Sunday morning worship.
For nearly 15 years, a certificate has hung on a sparsely occupied bulletin board on the back wall in the sanctuary of Laguna United Presbyterian Church in Casa Blanca, New Mexico. For the only Native American congregation in Santa Fe Presbytery, this now-faded certificate represented much more than a tradition or achievement. Every time they walked by it, it was a reminder of their congregation’s commitment to participate in the life of the church — a church that spans beyond their Casa Blanca community.
As I write, there are reports of yet another school shooting. The refrain “I never thought this would happen here” has become a mantra on the evening news. The circle of those experiencing trauma — or knowing someone who has — widens daily.
I never thought of myself as a crafty person. The small motor skills required for sewing or crocheting make my brow knit in frustration. Coloring books meant to lower blood pressure increase mine. But I confess that there have been weeks where I’ve been crafting some sort of visual aid to go with the sermon I’m preparing.
Twelve children were huddled around a long table. Though they were only 7 to 13 years old, they would ordinarily be on the street, begging or selling merchandise for their families. They would not be in school if it were not for the School on Wheels (SOW) program of the Little Children of the Philippines. The children live in difficult circumstances, and because school was not a priority set by their families, they are behind in their education. By offering them nonformal education three hours daily for 10 months, SOW allows them to catch up on their lessons so they can re-enter public school.
The Rev. Lorenzo Small admits he had never heard of prayer walking until a pastor friend told him about it. So, he tried it. The prayer walk made such an impact on Small for being “very simple and yet very effective” that wherever the pastor goes, prayer walking goes with him.