Tips For Heavy Lifting
“How are you?” I asked my DRE colleague on our recent phone call. Her response was not exactly typical, but becoming more familiar. She’d had a bout of Covid about six or eight months before. Although she’d been quite sick, it could have been much worse, and she was grateful for the vaccines her family had received. “Still,” she said, “even all these months later, I find I get winded easily. It’s harder to lift heavy things. Some things are just harder now.”
We return to our traditional New England UU church year in September, many of us feeling the same way after three years of covid - so much of what we used to do is just harder. Some of us who have chronic conditions or care for loved ones who do, it feels hard to show up for Sunday worship, and harder still to imagine going to coffee hour. For some families, it feels harder to rally the kids to go back to RE or youth group - it’s hard enough getting them to school five days in a row! It’s harder to find volunteers to staff our programs, serve on committees, companion the youth group, run the annual auction, or any one of a number of other things we once had an army of volunteers to help with in the before times. Everything is just a little harder.
We gave this blog post a provocative title, one that looks like social media clickbait designed to lure you to our pages with quick fixes for complex problems. These internet traps are really effective at getting eyeballs on their pages, but they aren’t effective at bringing viewers any actual help.
We’ve done a bit of reverse clickbaiting here. We gave our blog a provocative title but we offer no quick fixes. Instead we affirm that yes, so much is still just harder. We miss church, but getting back to regular attendance, to RE, to volunteering - feels like a heavy lift.
What do we know about lifting heavy things? Consider these questions when things at your church feel like schlepping a heavy load.
- Is this my load? Sometimes we pick up loads out of habit, or out of guilt, but the load is bulky and uncomfortable and doesn’t fit comfortably in our arms. Maybe that’s because the task does not fit our gifts. If we spend too much time toiling at tasks that are hard and demoralizing, our soul suffers. Is there someone else whose gifts are well suited to the load we struggle with? Developing a practice of discerning gifts with others in your church community, can make that heavy load a little more joyous to carry.
- Can we share the load? We never have to shoulder heavy loads alone at church. We have a covenant that binds us together, creating a network of interconnections between every member. It also connects your church to a vital network of hundreds of others across New England! Facing a heavy load? Yours is not the first or only of our churches to do so. Lean into our practice of covenant to get more help instead of going it alone.
- Could we lighten the load? Our congregations come with a beloved and living tradition. If the tradition, theology, and norms born in bygone eras create a culture of heaviness, the practice of tending our tradition invites us to gently prune the gifts of our history. Let’s carry forward the pieces of our tradition that continue to serve, challenge, and inspire us to build beloved community on earth. As we reckon with our inheritances, we may release the heaviness we don’t need to pass on to the next generation.
- Is my core stable? Weightlifters work on building up their core. At church, we do this through the practice of inner work. This helps us recognize when we feel activated and unstable. Our church community can help us remember to rest, remember to breathe, and build the muscle of resilience to help us out of the reactivity that is making that load extra hard to lift.
- Have we stretched? Sometimes lifting the load feels hard because we have never tried it before. The practice of faithful risking calls us to stretch our comfort zone toward our growth zone, especially when we are called to act for Love and Justice. In the new reality we are living into, let’s not be afraid to let go off some of the old weights and stretch in the new ways our faith is calling us!
These practices may not be quick fixes for what feels hard to you this week, but we believe that over time, they lead to deeper connections, growth, and congregational health. Let us know what you think!
And if your congregation wants to join a community of practice using the Practices of Spiritual Leadership for Culture Change , click this link. Connect with us and with neighbors, and remember you aren’t alone. Your New England Region team is on the journey with you.