The month of October is recognized for many holidays and national days, including Halloween and what is now known as Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s also a month filled with days of awareness and observance. During my first pastorate, I learned October is also Clergy Appreciation Month. Here recently, it was again brought to my attention that October is Depression Awareness Month.
On their own the appreciation of clergy and the awareness of depression are powerful. Yet, have you ever considered the idea of putting them together? Not in the sense of combining the names. We wouldn’t want to do that, as I’m sure it would be quite confusing.
However, in the appreciation of clergy, how long has it been since you’ve truly acknowledged the humanity of clergy? The last two years have required much from them, whether senior or associate or young adult pastor. Regardless of the position, the number of people in the pew or on the livestream, clergy have been dealt full hands and served full plates. The beauty of it is, most have navigated these spaces with grace. This is reason to give God thanks.
Though the spaces have been navigated with grace, it doesn’t mean the times haven’t been challenging. They have been and they are. It doesn’t mean clergy haven’t had moments of holistic exhaustion: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. They have had and they do have. It doesn’t mean clergy haven’t cried, screamed, shaken their fists or thrown up their hands. They have and they do. The weight of it all can be quite heavy.
The weight of it all can feel quite isolating. You see if the clergy who play as well as possible with full hands and do the best they can with full plates don’t see or feel support, depression can become the conversation partner and companion. This is where the idea of putting the Clergy Appreciation and Depression Awareness together comes into play. Of course, it’s not in the way you may have thought. But it’s relevant, nonetheless. We all want to know our efforts make a difference. We all want to know we are more than what we can do. This includes clergy, who are just as much human as you.
Before Clergy Appreciation Month comes to a close, I challenge you to let your support be seen, heard and felt. Pray for a clergyperson on the spot, not because anything is wrong, but simply just because. If you can’t do so in person, give them a call. Send a card, email or text message to simply say thank you. Send flowers or a food delivery gift card from Uber Eats, Door Dash, etc. If you see a clergyperson with a need or the church with a need that clergy would normally tend to, and you have the capacity or resources, fulfill it.
Now more than ever, clergy need your support. Not only clergy from your congregation, but all clergy. Do what you can, as you can. It all helps.
I’ll leave you with this: Considering that Jesus is 100% God and 100% human, what would it have been like if during his time of ministry, someone asked Jesus how he was doing or feeling?
Rae Karim, formerly chapel director at Christian Theological Seminary, is now pastor at First Christian Church of Honolulu. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.