The following post was written by Mark Andrews, Spirited Life Group 3 participant and pastor at St. Luke’s UMC in Hickory.
One of the hardest things I have ever had to do is admit to my church that I need help. Somehow, through almost thirty years of ministry I had taken for granted that as the spiritual leader of my congregation, I could never admit any weakness or vulnerability. But keeping up that façade of invincibility has been catching up to me in these last few years. In a new appointment with more staff and more administrative responsibilities I found myself less and less able to maintain the persona.
In the midst of this stress I began Spirited Life through the Clergy Health Initiative. At the same time I also took part in a year-long spiritual practices exploration called the School of the Spirit offered through The Lydia Group. These two programs reinforced each other, and one of the messages that became clearer during this year was what Brene Brown calls the courage of vulnerability. Somehow, if I was going to get better I must, first of all, admit I was needy, and secondly, ask for help.
With fear and trembling I went before my Staff-Parish Relations Team, then my Administrative Council, and finally, my congregation, asking for a three month renewal leave. I told them I was weary and needed a rest from my responsibilities, with the hope that I would come back renewed and refreshed to continue ministry. At each announcement, I received from my people powerful signs of grace, appreciative affirmations, and open-hearted permission to do what I needed. Such an outpouring would have never happened had I not admitted my need. And as a result, I have already begun the healing that I had denied myself but so desperately needed.
On June 1, I will begin my renewal leave by climbing on a bicycle and riding from the Atlantic Coast of North Carolina to the Pacific Coast of Oregon. I plan to use this trip as a means of support for our United Methodist Women’s efforts to stop human trafficking. As I ride 4000 miles, I hope to raise $10 a mile ($40,000 total!). Your donations are welcome (Pedaling to Stop Traffic).
Most of all, I am making this trip for me. I want . . . no, I need to do this. I am anticipating a restoration of my soul as I use this time to reflect on my calling and how to fulfill it with greater vulnerability in the years I have left.
But I have already learned one thing — we who serve the needs of others must acknowledge that we have needs of our own, and we must be vulnerable to our congregations if we are ever to receive the help we need.