Honoring our sanctuary

Reflections on clergy health

Dear clergy colleagues,

As Paul wrote Epistles, thus I am writing “Paulus” letters to you all regarding clergy health. Some of you remember that Bishop Breidenthal called me to serve as a point person for issues relating to clergy health for the diocese over a year ago. Unfortunately, we plan, God laughs, and life happens. Due to life situations, and taking care of the health care needs of my family and myself for the last 18 months, this portion of ministry has been put on hold. For that I apologize. Yet, somehow, God working in and through these events allows my personal journey to inform this ministry in ways I would never have imagined. (I certainly did not ask.)

It is evident that clergy live a “fish bowl” life. We are visible creatures, even when we would prefer privacy at all costs. The desires of life and the living thereof we often sacrifice simply due to the roles we play in the life of the greater community.

One of the books I read during this time of personal transition was Sanctuary- Unexpected Places Where God Found Me by Becca Stevens. I so desperately needed to find sanctuary for many and varied reasons. The book begins with this poem that I would like to share for your prayerful consideration.

412nPGiFe2L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Before the sun rose
Or an altar was hewn
Before the crocus bloomed
Or a winter passed

Before the birds sang
Or the seas parted
Before a word was spoken
Or an apple bitten

Before the wine was blessed
Or a cross lifted
Before the path was chosen
Or a prayer was offered

There was sanctuary.

Before we were clergy, there was sanctuary. Before there were congregants and other obligations, there was sanctuary. Clergy serve and minister in a sanctuary: sanctuary being a sacred space, a safe place of refuge. For a clergyperson, the meaning of sanctuary shifts. We can and may find a peaceful harbor in the sanctuaries of our various places of worship. However, I would offer that our sanctuaries are truly our place where we can take a deep breath of respite, rest and relaxation, which often does not or cannot translate to the church. No matter how much we love what we do, where we serve and those whom we serve, sometimes we simply have to get away and disengage.

Our personal sanctuaries are sacred spaces, places worthy of respect and honor. The only one to set and keep the boundaries of our refuge is us. We all know that there are those who pay no attention to set boundaries or our need to be in sanctuary – for always their neediness supersedes our sanctuary. Or so they think, or so we allow. We may expect there may be some who find our boundary-keeping perturbing. However, as I am wont to say, so goes life!

For our health and wellbeing as clergy folk, we must honor our sanctuary. By doing so, the life of our soul/spirit can be renewed for service as well as maintaining our sanity. In addition, as those who live in transparency, we can model best behavior in self-care by example.

Questions, comments or suggestions for future health care topics are welcome. Please contact me at revrn05@gmail.com I look forward to your input!

My prayer for us all is that we find our sanctuary and that the Ruah of the Divine will renew us there and in every sanctuary we traverse.

Peace and joy…. Here’s to good health!

Ruth Paulus is a registered nurse and serves as rector of St. Christopher’s, Fairborn.