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Anxiety and Burnout in the Church

We, church people, have been living with anxiety for a long time. We have been anxious about declining church attendance and loss of influence in the wider culture. We have worried about the aging of the church and its unknown future. We have fretted about the dwindling finances in the church and lack of

children and young people in the pews. We have anguished about our congregations’ life spans. We have mourned when local churches have closed,

grieved when our churches have had to go through change, hence loss, and mourned when church buildings have had to be sold or given away. That’s not

all. Two years ago COVID arrived, upending our lives, requiring a whole new set of changes and adaptations, deepening our grief and exacerbating our anxiety.

Today we are an anxious church, a grieving and worried people, uncertain of the future of our beloved churches and exhausted of all we have had to do just

to live and survive. Most of us are exhausted not only because of the last two years, but of the many layers of the anxiety we have been carrying for years. Our pastors and church leaders are tired and burned out. We are not confident that the future of the church is secure.

I don’t share all this to depress you. I share it to acknowledge our shared anxiety, our common grief and our collective exhaustion. I share it to remind us

that even in biblical times, anxiety was in the background and foreground of one’s existence. Anxiety encompasses a full range of emotion from thought to interest to concern, care, worry, grief, pain. The Hebrew word for anxiety literally means to melt with fear or dread. It seems where there are humans

there is anxiety. And as the author of Proverbs declares, anxiety in one’s heart weighs them down.

I also share this to offer words of hope and encouragement, and to invite you to opportunities for learning and healing. Anxiety, like all feelings, requires

energy. It is fueled as we attend to it, concentrate on it, helping it to increase and multiply. For, whatever one gives energy to, grows. God did not call the church to be a place of anxiety and exhaustion, but a community of faith and healing, confidence and joy. God did not call every local congregation to live forever. Like all living things, local churches have life spans. Nothing can live forever in the same form. Local churches will die, but the church

and its ministry will continue to live on, thriving in a new and different ways. That is what Jesus’ Resurrection is about. That is our faith story. Besides,

throughout history, the church has been re-formed time and time again.

We, the Association, are offering two opportunities to affirm our anxiety and learn from it. You are invited to:

• THE SPRING VITALITY FESTIVAL, ANXIETY IN THE CHURCH AND ITS POSSIBILITIES, Saturday, April 2, 9 am – 12 pm via Zoom.

• LAY LEADERS AND LAY PEOPLE MINISTRY BURN OUT and exhaustion workshop, Saturday, April 23, 12 – 3 pm via Zoom.

Both are free of charge to all. Lay Leaders are especially encouraged to attend. Authorized ministers will have their own burn out workshop at a later date. Registration for the Festival is open. Registration for the workshop will open on Monday, March 14.

With prayer for peace and healing to our world!

From Nayiri Karjian, General Minister, Living Water Association, Ohio North East, UCC | March 10, 2022

We are the church and as we gather, in whatever form that may be, to worship, fellowship and serve, the church is alive and well.

Let us encourage one another. Remain safe and check in on one another. We will get through this, and when we do…and look back on the other side…we will be stronger, more grateful, and more connected than ever.

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