For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.
But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.
And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.
A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12 NASB
“No man is an Island.” -John Donne
“Two heads are better than one…” -John Heywood and C.S. Lewis
“Light is the task where many share the toil.” -Homer
The power of companionship and collaboration is a theme explored in literature time and again because it is rooted in wisdom.
For many faith leaders, the support and solidarity of colleagues has been anchoring in a time in history where there is no guarantee of safety in our sacred spaces. In this past year alone, we have witnessed multiple communities and houses of faith around the world impacted by violent acts or natural disasters. Congregations have lost dear members and perhaps their entire places of worship as a result of these devastating and often fatal events. Despite the trend of increasing traumas in our sanctuaries, we continue to see healers and helpers emerge from those very places when disaster strikes our community. People still seek refuge, solace and strength from our faith leaders in times of trauma. This is why it has become increasingly important for faith leaders to recall the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 4. Two are better than one. Leaders who regularly strengthen bonds with their clergy colleagues (in times of tragedy as well as in times of peace) testify to the power and encouragement of these connections.
Clergy are often called on to address the emotional and spiritual needs that begin to arise in the aftermath of a tragic event. Government and nonprofit agencies actually solicit and appreciate the support of faith leaders as they begin the work of recovery and restoration post-disaster. These leaders are often appreciated as respected gatekeepers in communities and seen as a bridge to communication, particularly in times of great turmoil. So, the demands on the time and energy of clergy have increased significantly in recent years, making organization extremely important as faith leaders start meeting the myriad of needs that arise.
A ministerial alliance or clergy association can become a vital avenue for the coordination of community care. These ministerial alliances can provide external life-lines to supportive agencies, as well as internal life-lines to other faith leaders who also find themselves navigating a long road to congregational and community recovery. Within larger clergy associations, it is perhaps helpful for ministers to identify one or two other faith leaders (ideally within a close geographic area) with whom to meet with on a regular basis for prayer, collaboration, companionship and support.
Recently, to help address this need for support, a multimedia resource was released which chronicles the conversations of faith leaders who have experienced mass traumatic events in their own communities and congregations. Odyssey Impact partnered with ICTG on a project called Healing the Healers. It is a glimpse at faith leaders who have faced community-level trauma. Some of their words and experiences may resonate with your own experiences.
We are facing challenges these days unlike any we may have ever prepared for in our theological and ministerial training. The hope, however, is that no faith leader ever find him or herself in isolation, but rather considering “how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together... but encouraging one another.” (Hebrews 10:24-5)
If you find yourself feeling isolated in ministry, particularly in a season of trauma or community disaster you may also want to consider the following suggestions:
- Reach out and schedule consistent times to gather with one or more clergy colleagues.
- Seek clergy associations or ministerial alliances in your immediate area and attend meetings.
- Expand your geographic search to help find county or state wide clergy groups to connect with if you are in a remote area, or find online clergy networks that offer support.
- Identify denominational resources which can provide assistance as you minister in a post-disaster context.
- Identify clergy retreats or workshops to attend for fellowship, spiritual nourishment and respite.
- Let us know if ICTG can be of support, we are here for you.
Marvel Hitson serves as ICTG's Director of Congregational Health & Trauma Chaplain.
Marvel has been based out of the Montecito Center alongside the HOPE 805 Team & other community partners supporting Santa Barbara County in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and Debris Flows. She is currently working towards long term recovery through Riviera Care Center Project in collaboration with the Community Wellness Team.