The Charlotte Observer ran a news story last week about the medical leave of the Rev. Steve Shoemaker, the pastor of Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte. Shoemaker wrote in a letter to his congregation on December 28 that he is “physically, psychologically, and spiritually depleted, and must get help.”
Shoemaker entered a 30-day residential treatment program in Maryland for help with depression and anxiety. He said he had been taking prescription medication and had recently been self-medicating with alcohol.
In the article, Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, a member of Myers Park Baptist church, ordained minister, and physician administrator, lauded Shoemaker’s passionate ministry and dedication to improving the lives of others. She shared: “Being a pastor the way Steve does it, you’re refueling everybody else … but not often do you stop to let the big tanker come and refuel you.”
While this story may have been ground-breaking news for some readers, clergy depression is something we are well aware of at the Clergy Health Initiative. We encourage pastors to be mindful of their emotional, physical, and mental health, and to seek the support they need to pursue wellness when they are feeling depleted.
At Spirited Life, we give thanks for Rev. Shoemaker’s honesty and vulnerability at a time of exhaustion. We are grateful for his courage to seek treatment. Thank you, Rev. Shoemaker, for being a witness to others of our limitations as humans seeking to follow Christ in ministry in the world. May this time apart and away be one of healing and restoration, to the glory of God the Father, the Great Healer.
(image by flickr user mlhradio/via Creative Commons)
Blessings on Rev Shoemaker as he seeks help to continue the calling of God in his life.
This was a very important article and I pray for Rev. Shoemaker. He spoke for a preaching mission in a Church where I was pastor over 20 years ago. His is not an uncommon experience. For the last 6 years I have been on medical leave for mental health issues. After being relieved of my Pastoral responsibilities was diagnosis with Bipolar Disorder. When the symptoms first appears I was the senor pastor of a growing congregation. For personal health had moved to a smaller congregation, only to have the spiritual, physical and mental exhaustion were so great they could not be overcome. A major part of my situation was isolation. Unfortunately I did not receive the support and encouragement which some experience. During the last 7 years I’ve had only a few clergy inquire about my condition. Have seen former church member literally walk right by me and not make eye contact. I feel abandoned by my denomination. No church wants a pastor with a history of mental illness. Forgive my ramblings. This has set off painful memories.
Thank you for your bravery in sharing of your own experience, making it all the more evident that the road that Reverend Shoemaker is walking has been walked before, with heavy steps and a great sense of loneliness and isolation. Your comment also calls attention to a need to care for one another in times of struggle and of darkness. I hope that your memories of darkness may be contrasted with glimmers of light, of hope, of healing. May the Lord bless you, Robert.
Praying for this very brave pastor. So often our cups are empty, and stay empty, as we continue to try and pour into others. It’s so sad when we realize, all too late, that our cups are totally dry. I’ve been close to that point and, thankfully, had a clergy friend help to re-fill it for me. Sometimes we don’t have a pastor to “pastor” us, so we don’t recognize it in ourselves. This post reminded me to do some self-reflection. Thank you!