Thursday, June 11, 2009

June 11, 2009 - At CREDO

I realize it’s been quite a while since my last post. Life has been more than busy – bordering on overwhelming, at times. Each year, I always underestimate how hectic the month of June is, in parish ministry. June is the month when most church programs make ready to go into hibernation for the summer (yes, even here in a beachfront resort community). There are lots of end-of-the-year special events to occupy a pastor’s time.

Not only that, I’ve been away from home since Monday, at a continuing-education event called CREDO (an acronym for Clergy Reflection Education Discernment Opportunity, which also happens to spell out the Latin word for “I believe” – or, as some have more poetically pondered, “I give my heart to”). The invitation-only program is put on (and heavily subsidized, financially) by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), although they borrowed its design from the Episcopalians, who pioneered this concept of ministry support. We’re meeting at Beaver Hollow, a well-appointed executive conference center in a rustic, woodsy setting near Buffalo, New York.

It’s an unusually long continuing education conference: eight days. It’s kind of a mid-career tune-up for ministers who have been at this work for a long time and who’ve perhaps have not had an opportunity for a while to get away from the daily grind and reflect on the experiences that led us into this line of work in the first place.

It’s a wonderful group of people: gifted men and women from all over the country who are, for the most part, quite good at what they do. The ages range from 40-55. Few of us have ever met before, but the bonding was instantaneous and we’ve been having a great time.

It’s a wholistic sort of approach, focusing on finances, health, spirituality and vocation. Mostly we’ve been listening to presentations so far, with some small group work. Later in the event, there will be some time set aside for writing our personal “CREDO Plan,” a sort of personal to-do list for strengthening our spiritual life and ministry.

I’d like to share something from a CREDO handout on the subject of health. It has a lot to say to cancer survivors, and to everyone else as well:


1. Health means a sufficient absence of injury or disease processes so that my basic functioning operates without impairment (This is the traditional view of health).

2. Health means having an awareness of and reliance upon the life force within each one of us, which makes for growth and in the event of illness, for recuperation (we call it a positive attitude).

3. Health means having a sense that each of us belongs to others, and a desire to contribute to the common good (we call it an other-centered attitude).

4. Health means having an understanding that each of us is more than a product of history; that as individuals, we cannot only cope with the flow of events, but we also participate in shaping them (we are co-creators).

5. Health means interacting with others in such a way that our self-constancy, stability and individuality are not dissolved; even under threat (our egos are intact).

6. Health means having a sense of integrity. That is, we function as a unit and are not self-destructing (we have direction, focus, purpose).

7. Health means having a sense of the value of life and of living as a steward, not an owner (we are optimistic and free because nothing belongs to us individually. We have nothing to lose. We can live sacrificially).

8. Health means having a view of life that acknowledges dependency as a part of reality and rejoices in it; which recognizes gifts, including the gift of God’s love, mercy and ever-present Spirit and gratefully accepts them; which accepts creaturehood, as befits children of God.

9. Health means having an appreciation of living from the aspect of eternity that allows us to find security in the hope and expectation of life everlasting, not everlasting life (We can hang loose through all adversities of life because our perspective is eternal).

10. Health means embracing mystery and ambiguity as welcome friends.

Source: Adapted from Richard P. Ellerbrake’s remarks, Helen J. Westberg Lecture, Sixteenth Annual Westberg Symposium, September 11, 2002.

What I like about this statement is the way it integrates the medical and the spiritual. We need more of that sort of thing.

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