A reflection by Josh Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship
Truth be told, I wasn’t ready for my pastoral care class in seminary. One spring afternoon we participated in a role play exercise in which the scene was a funeral. Most of the class was the congregation, and one classmate lay on a table as if he were in a casket. A few minutes into the funeral, the teaching assistant began wailing, stood up, moved to the front of the room, and laid himself across the “deceased.” After ninety seconds of this, I was done. I shifted in my seat, trying to catch the glance of our professor so he would end this excruciating exercise.
In technical terms, I was consumed by anxiety. Even when I looked at my professor, he didn’t stop the mock funeral. He was completely calm and collected even though the class seemed out of control.
Pastoral counselors tell us that in times of high anxiety, we often make quick and rash decisions. Even more importantly, leaders in anxious systems have a calling to be calm. In difficult situations, leaders should both limit anxiety in a system and provide a wise, non-anxious presence to guide the community.
These are certainly anxious times for our culture and church. We need only read the daily news headlines or look at the most recent study about Christianity in the United States to see this. As a church, we are not immune. Financial concerns, membership decline, and significant conflicts all heighten the anxiety across the denomination. However, as a church we have called and trained leaders who know the questions before us and offer a non-anxious presence to guide us. We certainly need new thinking in days like these and an imagination formed in the ways of God.
While our monetary offerings to our congregations, districts, and the denomination will not ease the anxiety, they do support the leaders who guide us as people of faith.
Your gifts support the formation and education of our ministers through programs such as “Healthy Boundaries” and ethics training courses for our ordained and licensed ministers. These dollars also make possible live and recorded webinars such as the current series on Anabaptist core convictions, which is available to lay leaders and pastors. What is more, your gifts further our work to fulfill life-giving Annual Conference directives such as “Separate No More” that guide us to becoming a more culturally competent community.
While the world fuels our anxiety each day, these efforts and leaders offer us a non-anxious way to be faithful followers of Jesus. When questions of finances, church structure, or race and empire challenge our assumptions, the ministries of the Church of the Brethren provide places for us to become more Christ-like in all we do.
We as staff of the Church of the Brethren, on behalf of our districts and congregations, thank you for all you do. We thank you for every dollar that makes these ministries and many more possible. We pray that we all can experience and share the needed non-anxious presence that urges us toward a new day.