Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Rest is the ‘soul food’ of self and community care


The spiritual practice of rest is often neglected

February 12, 2023

The Rev. Shanea D. Leonard

Dr. Thema Bryant, a clinical psychologist and a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, is quoted as saying: “Rest is revolutionary. Self-care and community care are soul food. Dancing and singing amid everything that pulls you to disconnect from yourself is radical.”

It is because of this quote and my own understanding of what it truly means to live life more abundantly that I want to call our attention to the often-neglected spiritual practice of rest. And I don’t mean that in the sense of taking a nap and going right back to working. I mean rest in the total sense of ceasing from work for the purpose of restoration, rejuvenation and replenishment. I mean rest as the revolutionary act of not falling victim to white supremacy culture, which pushes us to constantly be producing more, bigger and better. I mean rest that says my preservation of my own body, humanity and dignity matters more than my need to generate an email or a sermon.

In a culture that is still trying to decolonize from the need to constantly produce as evidence of our vitality and worth, the act of time out is an unfathomable concept. However, the reality is our bodies, minds and souls deeply desire time to be restored. There are several passages in the Bible of Jesus removing himself from the weight of his ministry to restore his own temple. Jesus clearly shows us that there is a divine presence even in our stopping and doing nothing.

In the life of many faith leaders, particularly those who serve underrepresented populations, the pandemic, racism, and the overarching ebbs and flows of life in ministry have taken their toll in these past three years. This is compounded when you must navigate your own situations on top of shepherding others. Nevertheless, living into the call to care, be present and lead is a reminder that we are not called to be saviors of humanity. Last I checked, Jesus handled that.

As you go about your daily schedules, I challenge you to make sure you are taking time out for your own restoration. Schedule downtime. Revel in doing absolutely nothing. It is key to your preservation. It is holy. It is divine. And it is needed. Work will still be there waiting for you. Life will keep “life-ing.” But you will not be around to experience any of it if you don’t rest.

The Rev. Shanea D. Leonard, Director of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries for the Presbyterian Mission Agency

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, February 12, 2023, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Today’s Focus: Spiritual practice of rest

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Joseph Russ, Coordinator for Migration Issues, Advocacy & Mission with the Northern Triangle, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Yvette Russell, Vice President, Customer Engagement, Board of Pensions

Let us pray

Gracious God, we thank you that you are a miracle-working God and a multiplier of loaves and fishes. We thank you for your love and the opportunity to tell and show your love to all. We hold up to you the needs all over the world. Amen.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.