Pandemic Ponderings
from the Transitional Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley
October 25, 2021
Dear friends,
Pundits are calling it “the Great Resignation.” The designation refers to the great number of American people (4.3 million in August, 2021, alone) who have either quit or changed their jobs. Many factors are cited as contributing to this phenomenon:
  • People eking out a living in a job that does not pay a living wage nor provide for health care, nor pay its workers enough to get the childcare needed to work outside the home.
  • Being considered as “essential worker” without being treated as essential. (As one commentator put it – “We call them essential workers but really they are essential jobs – the worker is quite replaceable.”)
  • The pandemic has given people an opportunity to assess their life trajectory and be more choiceful about where they will pour their life energies.
These are just a few examples among many. The reality is we are seeing a Great Resignation changing the landscape of American work.
The church is not immune to this reality. A number of pastors, exhausted from trying to lead church in ways they were not trained for, nor do they really like, are also retiring early or going to work in other sectors. We have seen some of this in our presbytery and it’s a wide-spread phenomenon throughout the larger church. And even beyond that, many churches as they emerge from lock-downs are taking a closer look at their programs asking, “Is this something we’ve just always done, or is this still fulfilling our mission?” And even beyond that, some congregations themselves are wondering, in the face of enormous financial or personnel pressures, “Are we ready to lay this down?”
Now if you were raised as I was (and I suspect many of you around my age were) you grew up with mantras like, ‘You cannot quit what the Lord has given you to do.” Or my dad’s favorite, “Most of the work of the world is done by people who didn’t really feel like doing it. You have to stay in there.” The notion of quitting is anathema and countercultural.
But a recent opinion piece in the New York Times has me wondering. I invite you to watch this brief video:
The Bible itself gives mixed messages on this topic. On the one hand, what many of us want to hear when we reach Heaven’s gate is, “You have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, you have kept the faith. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” On the other hand we are also admonished to “Wait on the Lord.” And the invitation, “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
Being a Christian and living more and more into the fullness of Christ is the life-long call of the baptized person not complete until our death. In that we rightly persevere. Even so, that may not always mean a particular vocational path. Remember that “for freedom Christ has set us free” and “I came that you might have life abundant.” Maybe this pandemic has given us a God-given opportunity to assess our life, our calling (either individually or corporate), our purpose and, like Jesus himself gave us, give ourselves permission to quit.
I will be most interested in your thoughts on this!
As ever in prayer, (I am not quitting that!)
Sue Westfall

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