I write this on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend (U.S.). This long weekend traditionally marks a transition from Summer to Fall. For many of us, it ushers in a busy season of returning to church programming, enjoying fuller worship spaces, and seeing each other face-to-face again – even as COVID-19 is still hanging around.

This summer, The Advocate has been highlighting resources – our Top Five Favorites to support and sustain faith formation and ministry. We close this series thinking about self-care. How do we nurture our own faith? What activities have nurtured our soul in this past year? The four of us at the Advocate share our self-care and faith nurturing, and we invite you to fill in Number 5. What has been the thing that has nurtured your soul? 

Please share in the comments!

from Tori Smit

Over the 40 years that I’ve been in ministry, I’ve found spiritual and personal self-care along with work/life balance to be a bit of a challenge. A few years ago, I decided to make a change. I say I am becoming an “Ecclesiastes woman.” While it’s a little tongue in cheek, I really do mean it. As such, I am trying to learn from the philosopher’s commentary on his early days of never-ending toil, his realizations regarding the vanities of life along the way, and his subsequent approach to his remaining days on earth. I’ve been challenged by his ongoing faithfulness as he set new priorities for his later years. So, as an “Ecclesiastes woman,” here are a few of the changes I’ve recently made: 

  • I am reading the Bible more frequently simply for me and not always with a mind to how this might be applied a church programme. I strive to grow and be transformed through quiet prayer and contemplation. 
  • I end each workday with a time of transition sitting by the fire or out on the deck with my husband. We have enacted a set time to debrief the workday after which we don’t talk about it until work begins once again the next day. 
  • I’m revisiting a number of much-loved hobbies of my youth; who-done-it’s, gardening, knitting and sewing bring peace. 
  • And, this spring we created a long list of family and friends we wanted to ‘eat, drink and enjoy ourselves’ with. List in hand, we’ve entertained weekly and now treasure every lingering meal and conversation. 

Our philosopher frequently mentions that we ought to enjoy our toil and I’m discovering greater balance through attention to caring relationships and trusting that God truly endures forever.

from Karen DeBoer

When we began discussing recommendations for this blogpost about nurturing our own faith, I immediately lifted up my current go-to book: The Sacred Pulse, Holy Rhythms for Overwhelmed Souls, by PC(USA) pastor April Fiet. It has been a balm for this overwhelmed soul. As promised on the back cover, through “stories, Scripture and practical guidance, April Fiet lays out twelve practices that are both sustainable and sustaining so we can tap into the joyful, holy rhythms of life.” Almost every page in my copy of this book has been highlighted, dog-eared, or sticky-noted; it’s that good. 

I was thrilled when April agreed to be a guest on the Open to Wonder podcast; you’ll find that 30-minute conversation (titled “Appreciation is a Muscle You Can Strengthen”) at anchor.fm/open-to-wonder (or wherever you get your podcasts). You’ll also find April at the 2023 APCE Annual Event where she’ll be leading a workshop on the topic. In the meantime, I highly recommend buying a copy of the book—because I love mine too much to lend it out!

from James Monroe Potts

There are many things that have been nurturing to my soul over the past year. However, two things stand out. The first is community. I’ve been able to share space, spend time with, and break bread together with other people in ministry outside of our ministry contexts. Laughing, playing games, sharing stories has been an incredible balm for the soul. The second is quilting. The mundane and repetitive nature of the cutting, stitching, and pressing of the quilt pieces becomes meditative. It’s a time for me to talk with God and be open to listening to what she might be saying.

from Beth Herrinton-Hodge

I’m a writer—journaling, poetry, lesson plans, sermons, prayers. I don’t ever see myself writing a book. I write not to be published but to stir my soul. I think I started writing in a journal when I was in high school. It was a great outlet to write down and release my teen-age angst, to ask questions, to express myself in a safe space. Journaling wasn’t a daily exercise. I would write when I was moved to write. And that has always been okay.

In college, as I came into my own faith, my journal was the place where God and I talked. Journaling became my praying, and I had a sense that God spoke with me through my writing—I “spoke” and God “responded” in these prayers. I still meet God in my journaling.

These days, I write professionally. Curriculum/Lesson plans for Presbyterian Publishing; prayers and sermons in my supply preaching gigs; newsletters, announcements, articles in my work responsibilities. Writing is everywhere in our day-to-day lives. 

About ten years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a continuing education event co-sponsored by Louisville Seminary and the Collegeville Institute entitled, “The Writing Pastor.” This weeklong writing retreat encouraged church professionals to embrace the writing we do in our every day work and approach it as a spiritual practice. We started each day with 20-minutes of Free Writing – a handwritten exercise that allowed us to center ourselves and engage in stream-of-conscious writing. The rest of the week we wrote to prompts; we wrote poetry; we crafted newsletter articles about our ConEd experience. We met with local writers and critiqued one another’s work. My soul soared!

This faith nurturing practice is as simple as taking pencil to paper—is easy and close at hand. For these, I am grateful and restored.

What about you? How to you take care of yourself? What insights and practices can you share with us? Please share in the comments.