On the body

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.

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7 thoughts on “On the body

  1. I am sorry about your stress level, but if it helps…you need to know that your writings are an inspiration to me each time you share them.

    Dr. David A. Sherbine
    Age almost 68
    Lakeland, Florida

  2. Good thoughts! Started HBP when I started work. Not uncommon for us Type A driven folk. Remember “love thy neighbor as thy self” & you have to give yourself good care before you can start caring for others! God love you & relax!

  3. So sorry, you’re not feeling well and that you are stressed. You do have a stressful job! We, at St. Paul’s are so blessed to have you and your family with us!
    Steve, do you think you may be being called to blog about the role of God in dealing with stress? How did Jesus deal with stress?
    I too, think your writing is very inspiring (and also your sermons). I wish you would write a book.
    I don’t know what type I am but it seems like many of us feel stressed at times and we usually consider our most stressful times as “time to contact clergy”.

    One wonderful thing about being an Episcopalian is that it seems there is a prayer for just about everyone and also all things that seem necessary to pray about (no memorial service for a viola bow, though).

    Often, I feel God’s presence when thinking of loved one’s favorite prayers; hymns and Bible verses. We do pray for clergy, Steve. We do pray for you and your family!
    Right now, I wish there were indexes of first lines in the BCP. But, on page 596 of BCP 1928
    are two prayers for trustfulness. The first one seems especially beautiful.

    Also in a relatives’ prayer book, the following now faded words are written. I’m not sure whether or not she improvised this prayer from several others or what the source of the following prayer is but it seems to me to be a “stress reliever”.

    “O Lord, thou knowest my cares and my fears. Help me to turn them all over to thee who hast promised to give rest to our souls. Grant to me now, a restful spirit and a peaceful mind and in quietness and confidence to find new strength.”

  4. Pingback: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work | Draughting Theology

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