Relational Health Advisory for Our Congregations and Communities: December 2020 and Beyond

By Sunshine Jeremiah Wolfe

Annoyed Meerkats interacting

A confluence of events has come together to create a season of potential miscommunication, reactivity, and disconnection. The normal seasonal currents of grief during the holidays, colds, seasonal affective disorder, and family trauma have met with jets of quarantine, Covid, political foolishness, working too many hours, inability or failing to take healthy time off, and grief over recent deaths. This is creating unsuitable conditions for healthy communication. Expect higher chances of overwhelm, assumptions, heightened emotional response, and conflict for the next 3-6 weeks.

Seriously friends, we are in the heart of an overwhelming storm. None of us are operating at full capacity. Most all of us are exhausted. I am seeing a lot of our lay and professional leaders burned out and despairing. It is especially hard to serve right now. All religious professionals are dealing with what was already a stressful time- the holidays- while amid a pandemic and all that means.

Online communication in all the various forms can lead to miscommunication. I want us to remember back to the patience we had with one another when the pandemic started. The grace, patience, and care that we used then are the same tools we need now.

So, a few things to keep in mind this during this winter advisory:

  1. If you are feeling a strong reaction- take a beat. Remember that any emotions we are feeling right now are heightened. There is no hurry. Take 24 hours. Speak with a trusted colleague. Check-in with the people you need to check-in with before you decide how to respond to any thing that has you concerned and/or upset.
  2. If someone is proving challenging or you have a concern, assume that it was a miscommunication first. This is especially true with people who normally concern us or push our buttons. If we are not our optimal selves, you can be sure they are not. If it is someone you normally get along with, then REALLY assume it is miscommunication. Talk to them and get some clarification.
  3. If you don’t HAVE to deal with it this month- don’t. Urgency is a normal response to anxiety and overwhelm. It is also dangerous and can cause more harm than good. Unless someone’s life is at risk, there is a legal restriction, or a structural reason that something needs to be handled right now, change the timeline. Urgency can damage you, your leadership, and your community.
  4. We all need care right now. If there was ever a time to put on your own oxygen mask- it is right now. Hold tight to your days or hours off. Take a real break from the work that gives you that necessary balcony view. You and your community are worth that space- you all deserve it.

This month will end. Until then, breath, take your time, and do not give a lot of power to first emotions and first impressions. Emotions and reactions are a sign that something matters, but they can mislead you on how or why it matters. So, go bravely and carefully forward.

Please remember, you are loved, and you are not alone.

Rev. Sunshine Wolfe

About the Author

Sunshine Jeremiah Wolfe

Rev. Sunshine J. Wolfe is Congregational Field Staff for the Central East Region serving congregations in western Pennsylvania and across Ohio. Ghe hails originally from Indiana where ghe learned to sing, dance, and cause trouble- the social justice kind. Ghe is currently a member of TRUUsT...

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