For a number of years God has been stirring up a question in several leaders in the various denominations of the Christian Church, “How can we help our spiritual leaders be healthy and well?” Some of us in the ELCA have been focusing on living well in Christ and what that means to be healthy in the parish ministry or in the leadership of a para-church organization. It seemed that the culture in which our clergy and professional lay leaders were diligently serving as ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was filled with many unhealthy traps. The unhealthy traps caused great emotional and physical stress as we observed our spiritual leaders burning out, suffering physical illness, struggling with broken relationships within their families and/or the congregation, loss of energy and passion for ministry, and just totally worn out. God kept stirring up that question in our hearts and was leading us to move from vision to action with a wellness plan for our spiritual leaders to practice and hopefully to be filled with the Spirit with passion and energy to lead the faith community to join them in living well in Christ.
Jesus asked a similar question in John 5:6 to the man who was ill and was at the pool of Bethzatha (Bethesda). He had been waiting in illness for 38 years. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” So with that question, the Wellness Team of the ELCA Board of Pensions, now called Portico, began a plan for action called, Journey of Renewal. It was designed as a pilot program to focus first on clergy and then to expand to other spiritual leaders in the Church.
This video clip of Journey of Renewal is a transitional section of this action plan to move the participants into a new phase of “renewal.” First, the focus was on their personal practices of wellness. Did they want to be well? Through the first phase, the learning was done through a beginning retreat, and then monthly lessons done in small groups with a wellness coach. Each participant also chose a personal friend with whom to converse and pray together and who, with the coach, help the participant responsible to work at all the action steps for being well. New resources were introduced and practiced during session and between sections.
This video clip was created for the transition from a wellness focus on the spiritual leader, now to wonder, pray, and plan how to share this wellness ministry to others in the faith community. I was blessed to be one of Portico’s wellness coaches (Sue Lang and Rochelle Melander were the other two on our coaching team). The coaches as well as the Portico Wellness Management Team were all learning on the job as well as the participant. This video shares some simple spiritual disciplines for spiritual leaders (really any Christian) and a strong focus on Sabbath keeping.
There is a connection of faith formation and living well in Christ. The great Reformer, Martin Luther said, “This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health, but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way.” Walter Wangerin, Jr. in his book The Orphean Passages helps us look at faith as a verb, faithing, rather than as a now. It is an on-going process of the Holy Spirit. Journey of Renewal connects faithing with living well in Christ.