If you are feeling distant from the people and places you have loved, you aren’t alone.
If you wonder when things will ever get back to something like “normal,” you’re in good company.
If this year has taken you to one emotional extreme after another—with the pandemic, our nation’s racial reckoning, our Midwest derecho, a drought that has affected our crops, natural disasters around the country, a complicated and highly contentious election, extended uncertainty about the future of the United Methodist Church, and whatever else has been happening in your own circumstances—you may be feeling depleted, alongside many other friends and colleagues.
It’s that experience of depletion, distance, and uncertainty that has prompted us to introduce The Exile Project, a collaboration between Bishop Haller’s Mental Health Task Force and the Office of Clergy and Leadership Excellence. A diverse team of writers, introduced below, along with guest writers from time to time, will be distributing an “Abiding in Exile” e-newsletter each week, to support the mental health and wellness of lay and clergy leaders living through the pandemic.
Why exile? Because we stand in continuity with foremothers and -fathers who lived through dislocation and long experiences of trauma, across many centuries. Especially in the exile, after the fall of Jerusalem, these faith ancestors suffered utter ruin and separation from all they held dear. Maybe their responses can inform, encourage, and support us in this uncertain time of extended exile from our churches, our plans, our loved ones, and so many details of our regular lives.
And not only that. During the exile, the Israelites re-membered and re-told the Hebrew tradition in ways that gave them strength and resilience. The older testament took its current shape and, arguably, that history survived because of the work those exiles did to retrieve, preserve, and hand on that tradition. It was part of how they endured, themselves. They didn’t just hang on; they went deep.
Maybe through their eyes we’ll remember: We aren’t just on hold while we await a new normal that we can’t see yet. We have work to do.
So, you are invited to this weekly e-mail, “Abiding in Exile,” that will come to you on Thursdays, seeking to name and offer wisdom and resources for our collective well-being—spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical. We hope to speak to a range of needs over time, including pastoral care, spiritual formation, leadership development, and more. They’ll include some Scripture, some poetry and images, some invitations to further action, and always a prayer. We hope all this will provide some needed support in this time.
Originally published by the Iowa Annual Conference. Republished with permission by ResourceUMC.org.