As I sit here at the University of South Carolina library on a Sunday afternoon, I must confess I haven't been to church in a few weeks. No, it's not because of the teaching, music, or somebody who ticked me off. Don't worry, I haven't backslidden. The fact of the matter is that I've been called out as a chaplain the last few Saturday nights, and since I’m on call Sunday nights, too, I am left with a choice. Fall asleep in my bed or fall asleep during my pastor's sermon. (No, Pastor Jimmy, it’s not you!) Good self-care means I need rest so I can be my best for my next shift that starts in a few hours. The families I may deal with deserve that.
But not getting to church means I need to get my spiritual tank filled in other ways. Having done this for many years I have come up with many ways to feed my soul even when making it to church on a Sunday morning may not be in the cards. Here are some ideas.
1. Find a church that has a mid-week service.
If you can't go on Sunday, the mid-week service may be your only option.
2. Listen online.
If your church posts their sermons online, listen there. If they don't, find other good teaching. There is a ton of it out there.
3. Keep up with your quiet time.
Take time to read, pray, worship, and meditate. As I write this I'm currently listening to my Praise & Worship channel on Pandora.
4. Fellowship with other believers.
As a public safety chaplain, you may not be able to expect to be spiritually filled by the people you work around. If you are, you are truly blessed. Either way, you owe it to them to show up strong.
5. Be accountable.
Do you have a friend in the faith you can talk to and pray with? I can think of several brothers I can call up on a moment's notice.
6. Join a small group.
The fellowship of like-minded believers is important to your spiritual health.
7. Take a break.
If this absence goes on for a long time (my record is two months straight) it might be time to find somebody who can cover for you so you can spend time with a body of believers and feed your soul.
8. Don't forget to give to your local faith body.
Just because you aren't there doesn't mean you aren't part of the body. The ministry of your local body that God has called you still goes on. And you are still a member. Tithe or give online.
9. Go on a retreat.
After a while, compassion fatigue and exhaustion can get to all of us. Maybe it's time to just get away and recharge. I have become aware of several retreat places here in the Carolina's which friends in ministry have used. Ask around.
10. Try to make it back to church next weekend.
We understand that you might be called out again. It's the nature of your ministry.
Now, I pray that I will be at church next Sunday morning. And frankly, everyone involved in those calls would rather not be in a situation where they need to call a chaplain; it's usually because someone has died. But such is the nature of being a crisis response chaplain. You don't need a chaplain usually until you NEED the chaplain.
But you won't be a chaplain (or a good one) for long if you don't keep in tune with the one who called you to be a chaplain.
South Carolina Public Safety Chaplains Association