In Urban Mosaic’s communities, pastors hold an important role: supporting community members, sharing God’s love with them, and working towards creating spaces of shalom. The last year of the pandemic has been especially significant for pastors’ involvement. In this crisis, people have turned to God for strength, and many pastors helped remind and encourage others to make that connection.
But, who comforts the pastors?
Unfortunately, many pastors in Urban Mosaic’s communities have not processed their own responses to the crises of last year. Some felt that it was easier to suppress feelings of grief, lack of forgiveness, and pain, rather than to express them. Others said they didn’t feel like they could express difficult emotions as a leader.
COMFORTING THE COMFORTERS
Recently, Urban Mosaic organized twelve training sessions over three months for local pastors and leaders, called Psychological-Pastoral First Aid training, designed to teach them about spiritual and emotional support and to challenge them to look at how that plays out in their lives.
“Basically, the approach was: (1) learn to deal with our own crises and (2) accompany others in their crises,” said Carina, Urban Mosaic’s Director of Training. Carina created and led the training. “In addition, we referenced a manual of 50 exercises for practicing emotional recovery. Participants had to do one per day.”
The first day of training required pastors and leaders to take a personal look at how each person experiences crisis. The leaders were asked to reflect on the challenges they’re facing in their own lives, how they deal with them, and how to look for positive opportunities amidst pain.
“I came in with an expectation that I was going to help other people in this training, but the first lessons challenged me. I realized that you need to help yourself, too. I had unresolved crises, anxiety, and stress,” said one participant.
“God kept showing me this image of removing a blindfold from my eyes and healing my heart. I know that things don’t change overnight, but we have already made progress in this class. God shows us that we are Body, Soul, and Spirit. It is my responsibility to live in a way that balances those three, which could look like having someone who can support, listen to and sustain me spiritually. It also means making changes in my diet and my rest, taking a day for me where I can do activities that I like…I am grateful to Urban Mosaic for being like a spring in the desert.”
In the second half of the training, pastors were encouraged to look outwardly at how they walk with others in crisis. The participants learned what it means to listen empathetically, to deal with conflict and to help rebuild relationships full of hope and life—all while processing their emotions well.
“In the past year, I refused to see and acknowledge that I have been through many crises. I dedicated myself to solving the crises of everyone, except for those of my family and myself. I am praying that I continue to use everything I learned from this training and to work hard on it,” said one community leader.
“We’ve been comforted so that we can comfort!” said Carina.
REBUILDING COMMUNITIES THROUGH EMOTIONAL HEALING
Doing emotional work is not an easy task, especially for pastors and leaders who haven’t had experience in doing so. The training revealed areas where some pastors felt they made mistakes or didn’t support themselves or their communities well. For others, they learned to view crises in a new, more positive light.
One pastor reflected: “I was shocked to hear from another pastor not to demonize or spiritualize crises. I had heard about exercises for emotional support, but those recommendations came from a psychologist, not someone in ministerial work. This training brought together the professional and spiritual parts of emotional healing. That balance was so helpful! It broadened my perspective.”
“Since the training, I have gotten to know each member of the Church better. It encouraged me to be more attentive to helping my neighbors, especially people who I have no relationship with,” another pastor added.
PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, AND SPIRITUALLY
“This certificate is a blessing for my life. It taught me to express how I feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually, which was difficult for me. It also taught me how to face crises and not avoid them or think that nothing is wrong,” said one of Urban Mosaic’s pastors. “Before, I didn’t confront adversity well. But, this training helped me to look back on times where a family member’s health declined or I lost someone in my family—times where I was met with fear, despair, insomnia, and pain. Now, I feel I can support myself better and be able to walk alongside other people in their crises, bringing healing and new life.”
“The certificate showed areas that were not yet fully healed in me, regarding the crises that I have experienced. I learned how to face crises by supporting myself with others, first from God but also from the people that He has placed around me, to listen to me and with whom I can vent…The readings taught me that I should not be so apprehensive about things, that I should learn to schedule my activities better so as not to fall into anxiety, to take care of my body by giving it a good rest, diet and exercise,” added another participant.
The work of seeking shalom takes many forms: sometimes it’s seen in the creation of a new soccer field or in the joy of a child. Other times, it is the quiet, deep work of learning how to manage crises with God, with oneself, and with others. After this challenging year of COVID, where so many have faced grief and loss, the emotional work these pastors did is all the more important for regaining a sense of hope for the future.
“I now understand that God uses my life to help others even though I myself am going through difficult times.”