I can’t preach to the choir due to COVID-19.

But if I could, I would turn around and say to these musically inclined members, “Show some appreciation for clergy and for pastors specifically.”

“It is hard to believe, to have faith right now,” I’d tell them. “So, save your sermon ideas, your quibbles over the finances, your distaste for his new haircut or her dress choice at least until this pandemic is over. You can also keep your discipleship tips because we’ve got ‘bigger fish to fry.’”

Because a lot of pastors are over it – and by “it,” I mean congregational ministry. They are experiencing something beyond compassion fatigue and wondering what else they can do with a Master of Divinity degree.

Pastors, if you are reading this, raise your hand if you agree.

Members, please don’t beat me over the head with your Bibles, tell me to pray or question what is left of my faith. It’s already been through the ringer a few times.

After the service, don’t try to fix this on your way to the parking lot because you can’t. There is simply no bumper sticker or band-aid big enough to cover all of the soul’s scratches and scrapes caused by this pandemic.

Don’t ask me, “Where does it hurt?” Because we are in a world of hurt. It hurts everywhere in the world.

And I am telling you this because your pastor can’t for fear of anything from a dirty look to unemployment.

Besides, have you really looked into your pastor’s eyes lately? Do you see how tired she is? Can you tell that he has been crying? Have you noticed that they have not been sleeping?

I cannot imagine what it feels like to lead a congregation now. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to. It is hard enough for me to show up for church on Zoom or via Facebook Live.

I could not show up for church on Sunday if you paid me to right now. It’s not my wi-fi connection, the sermon title or even the length of the service. It’s a mixture of exhaustion and grief, and the grief cycle is on repeat.

I am simply at a loss for words for those who refuse to wear a mask, at a hope deficit for those who are seeking a religious exemption to the vaccine mandate. I am also angry at death.

This is why many of us keep ourselves busy. We keep our fingers moving to keep from pulling our hair out, from shaking our fist at God.

The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has resulted in more than 4.5 million deaths globally. Those deaths are in addition to car accidents and freak accidents, acts of nature and human-caused disasters, terminal conditions and poor health.

We are all expected to work through it and deal with the full weight of it on our lunch break. But we could all use some time off to mourn with a world that is mourning, to catch our breath and to catch up with ourselves.

Trying to balance it all, to juggle all of these balls when everything is up in the air, pastors are really struggling. Churches could help take some of the load off.

Mitch Randall, CEO of GFM, recently wrote a column offering to do just that, and it sparked a conversation.

Now several organizations, Good Faith Media, BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty), Baptist News Global, Baptist Women in Ministry and Passport have all partnered to offer #RespiteforRevs.

Any of the clergy from these organizations will preach via Zoom or in-person if possible – with all proper precautions, of course.

All congregations have to do is give their pastor an extra Sunday off. It is offered at no cost to the congregation through Eastertide.

An unofficial holiday, the second Sunday of October (Oct. 10 this year) is “Pastor Appreciation Day” and October is typically considered “Pastor Appreciation Month.”

In addition to cards, casseroles and well-wishes, please consider giving your pastor a break.

I hope I’m preaching to the choir here and that you are saying, “Amen.” If so, we look forward to hearing from you and to preaching at your church soon.

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