It is with great joy that I celebrate the fifth anniversary of my Ordination the Priesthood today. I am blessed to be a part of such an amazing parish as Saint Paul’s in Foley. My family has grown by two since SHW and I moved here in the summer of 2007. I’ve seen the great highs and deep valleys of parish ministry, and I am glad for every opportunity I’ve had to serve my parish, my community, my diocese, and the wider Church.
And yet, today is still very much a bitter sweet day for me. As I celebrate a milestone that anywhere between 30 and 80% of clergy don’t have the chance to (depending on which study you read and what your definition of ordination is), I can’t help but note how even I am a cautionary tale.
I am 33 years old, a husband for almost a decade, and a father of two great girls (3.5 and 8 months). I have served as board chair for organizations both within and outside of the church. I have assisted the Bishop of various projects and served, with joy, as a Deputy to the 77th General Convention. I am 33 years old, and in the five years since I was ordained a priest, I have been diagnosed with three disorders that are exacerbated by stress: TMJ, scalp psoriasis, and just this week, hypertension (high blood pressure).
The truth is, I’m not the healthiest Episcopal priest, but neither am I the unhealthiest. I would venture a guess that I’m in the top 30% of health for Episcopal clergy. I run 2-3 times a week. We rarely use salt. I work hard to not work too hard. Also, please don’t forget, I’m only 33 years old.
All of this has me thinking about two things I’ve read this week. The first is a blog post written by The Rev. David Knight on new ways of imagining the role of clergy, entitled, “Acts 6?” In it, Father David argues that we should be more attentive of gifts and roles in ministry and less prone to taking it all upon ourselves, something clergy are too quick to do. I’ve also been thinking about the lesson from I Corinthians 12, in which Paul, rather famously, puts forth the image of the body as a way to understand the interconnectedness of the Church. As I came to terms with the fact that, at 33 I’m taking blood pressure meds, I was struck this week by this line:
If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Clergy tend to forget that we too are a part of the body. We work ourselves to the point of suffering, and then either a) expect no one to notice or b) wonder why the parish suffers around us. The truth of the matter is we are just as much members of Christ’s body as all of those who serve alongside us. We are doing no one any favors trying to bring about the Kingdom all by ourselves. We owe it to ourselves, our families, our congregation, and, quite frankly, our God to take our place as a member of Christ’s body, and, for crying out loud, to admit when we are struggling.
Like I said, I’m pretty healthy. I find great satisfaction in my job. I love my family. Life is generally good. But apparently I carry a lot of stress, and I need to give that up. As fellow members of the body, I hope you will help me as I endeavor to accomplish this goal, with God’s help. After all, we’re all in this together.