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Program emphasizes importance of respite for Hispanic pastors


Being in community is ‘refreshing to the soul’

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Sincerely Media via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — Taking a break from pastoral responsibilities is sometimes easier said than done. With that in mind, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been offering a four-week program called “Learning to Live into the Rhythms of Sabbath” for Hispanic Latine pastors.

The online program, which consists of four 90-minute sessions, is a collaborative effort by the Office of Hispanic/Latino-a Intercultural Congregational Support and 1001 New Worshiping Communities (NWC).

The Rev. Rosa Miranda

The program is designed by NWC coaches to help pastoral leaders to “invest into self-reflection and prayerfully discern on how to journey individually and collectively into Sabbath practices,” said the Rev. Rosa Miranda, associate for Hispanic/Latino-a Intercultural Congregational Support in Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries.

The need is there because pastors are work-oriented people who sometimes believe that God has called them to be available to people 24 hours a day. Their congregations often expect them to be involved in every aspect of their lives, said Rev. Dr. Pablo Rivera Madera, a 1001 NWC coach and facilitator.

The Rev. Dr. Pablo Rivera Madera (Photo by Nimia Acosta-Rivera)

“It is hard to respond to these expectations without having moral injury,” Madera said. “Overcoming these feelings demands education on how to relax and rest without feeling guilty.”

Through the Sabbath program, which began in August, participants learn that “God has given you permission to get some rest and to take care of yourself and be with your family and take time off,” Miranda said.

Echoing those comments, the Rev. Jeff Eddings, associate for coaching and spiritual formation for 1001 NWC, said that sabbath is “not just suggested by God but commanded by God. I also remind pastors that Jesus modeled taking time away to connect with God to the point that the disciples would lose track of him, asking, ‘Where did Jesus go?’”

Participants in the Sabbath program have included two cohorts of pastoral leaders. It was organized by a group of Hispanic leaders who are familiar with the special challenges that their peers face.

“For many leaders or members of Hispanic churches, it is quite difficult to understand the term ‘sabbatical,’” said Rev. Daniel Beteta, a 1001 NWC coach involved with the program. “All pastors need time for themselves because of the complexity of ministry activities and their responsibility to the needs of their congregation. A sabbatical is not only an option we need to suggest to our pastors, both ordained and non-ordained, but rather a crucial tool that needs to be effectively explained and implanted in all churches.”

Economics plays a part in the difficulties that Hispanic pastors face when it comes to taking time for respite. For example, it’s common for them to hold another job to help support their families because their congregation or NWC is unable to provide a full-time salary package.

“Even though the positions only remunerate partially, the work, effort and commitment of the leaders is never part-time,” said Edwin Andrade, co-pastor of Riverside Presbyterian Church in Sterling, Virginia. “This sense of call and commitment that is poured into the work and the congregation is admirable but costly. The cost is not only physical or financial, but often spiritual and emotional. The last two are often overlooked by the leader because the call ‘demands it.’ Yet, we know now more than ever that if we do not refresh, process and share, we will suffer and burn out often in silence and alone.”

The Rev. Jefferson Caldeira, pastor of Vida Nueva Presbyterian Church in Chicago, also noted the dedication of Hispanic pastors and how it can contribute to not taking time for rest and rejuvenation.

“Due to a very conservative formation, the leader assumes so much responsibility that he comes to have weight of conscience when he goes on vacation,” Caldeira said. “Often, even on vacation, he remains connected with the congregation by phone or social networks, trying to solve problems despite from a distance, even those that were not so urgent or important. The pressing needs of the community is another factor that leads the Hispanic leader to stay on call despite being on his day off or on vacation.”

The program helps pastors to examine the issue through the lenses of Scripture and how to look forward to including Sabbath as part of their lives, Miranda said.

“By participating in a sabbath, the leader returns reinvigorated and with more energy to be able to continue in the task assigned to him or her,” Caldeira said.

The Rev. Jeff Eddings

Eddings said, “Sabbath offers an opportunity for leaders to reconnect with God and themselves and to remind them that God is God, so they do not have to be.”

Eddings also mentioned the need for leaders to model sabbath practices to their congregations.

“The pastor too often carries the whole weight of the ministry to the community, but the Bible shows us time and again we are called to care for each other in community,” he said. “We share the load together,” and “everyone is healthier and more ready to serve Jesus when good sabbath practices are in place.”

After completing the four-week program, participants are eligible to apply for a scholarship to take time off for rest and reflection in the fall, Miranda said.

Though the Sabbath program ends this month, she hopes to keep participants connected through a bimonthly meeting to help them maintain a support network.

“There is a lot of solitude among our Hispanic leaders,” Miranda said. “Hopefully, these online Sabbath retreats will break that cycle as well.”

Andrade seconded the need for a support system. “One of the tangible benefits and opportunities is community,” he said. “To know that there are others in ministry who are struggling with the same challenges and others who are willing to create space, equip and journey with is refreshing to the soul.”

Read about 1001 Sabbath and Sabbatical Grants here.

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