Pandemic Ponderings of the General Executive Presbyter

Pandemic Ponderings of the General Presbyter for the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley

October 5, 2020

October is Clergy Appreciation Month and this coming Sunday is Pastor Appreciation Sunday. When this designation was introduced by our friends over at Focus on the Family and monetized by Hallmark in the early 90’s, as a pastor at the time, I was pretty skeptical. It felt kind of artificial and hokey to me to be honest.

But if ever there was a year to observe Pastor Appreciation Day (Month) it would be this year. Think about it. Pastors, you have been on a steep learning curve in a high profile position so we all get to see exactly how well you’re navigating that curve. (No pressure.) I don’t know if your congregations are doing anything official to show appreciation for you (I suspect many of  them are in one way or another and I know of one church that a few weeks ago in a surprise move, granted their pastor a raise!). But I would like to take this opportunity for a shout out to our pastors, and associate pastors. And just to be a bit more specific, I appreciate…

  • The time and effort you have been making to transition to on-line services. Like the virus itself, you’ve had to develop (and then learn how to operate) novel ways of leading worship and providing spiritual nurture whether that be by on-line services, FB live, and, of course, the ubiquitous Zoom. Most of you didn’t know how to do any of this 8 months ago but look at you now! I appreciate your time and effort!
  • I appreciate the ways you’ve learned to care spiritually for your congregations when in person hospital or home visits have been off-limits. For many pastors those deep and intimate experiences of praying at a bedside, gathering with a family in times of bereavement, celebrating your congregant’s milestones, are certainly what you trained for and which for many of you is your most deeply satisfying work and you yourself are experiencing loss when this is not possible. I appreciate that, even with that sense of loss, you are finding ways, nevertheless, to provide that care.
  • I appreciate how many hard decisions you with your sessions have had to make – when to call church off, when and how to safely re-open your physical space, how to offer Christian formation for all ages in the church, etc. People’s lives are potentially at risk in these decisions so the stakes are high. And yet with wisdom and courage you have navigated your church through all these hard decisions. I appreciate that about you.
  • I appreciate that practicing ministry through this pandemic is simply not fun. And yet, you have persevered. You have persisted. I appreciate your grit and endurance for the sake of your calling.
  • I appreciate those of you who have had to do all this while raising children – homeschooling, juggling your roles as parents, pastors, spouses, caregivers when everything you have to do is harder in this pandemic. I not only appreciate you, I pretty much stand in awe of you!
  • I appreciate that all of you have your own personal challenges, heart-aches, and difficulties to deal with while seeing to the welfare of your flock. And I appreciate the sacrifices you have had to make.

But let me say a broader word about appreciation in general. To express appreciation shows that you see the person and that you value them. Maybe you see and value a special skill they have, or a kindness you see them do, or you see their courage to do a hard thing. Or you appreciate how hard they are working (regardless of whether or not their being successful at it). Or you simply appreciate who they are.

There’s an old story of a young boy who never spoke. His frantic parents tried everything to help him, sent him to specialists, hired consultants, had him evaluated in every way but nary a word from him. One night at dinner the boy who was about nine by this time, looked up from his plate and said with perfect diction, “These peas are cold.” His astonished parents gasped and immediately exclaimed, “You can talk! But why haven’t you spoken a word until now?” The boy shrugged slightly and calmly explained, “Well, up until now everything’s been fine.”

Find someone to appreciate this month. It might even be your pastor.

We had a rollicking conversation last Thursday with our Matthew 25 churches (we’re up to 12 now in this presbytery). You are invited to join me for more conversation this Thursday at 4:00pm. Here’s that link: We’re going to talk about Christians and voting. (Can’t imagine why that’s on my mind.)

As ever in prayer,


Sue Westfall



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