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Bishop Hagiya’s Briefing (10/20/2021)

The month of October is designated as “Clergy Appreciation Month.” More than just a consumer trick to sell more greeting cards, I appreciate the sentiment behind this designation. To recognize our clergy is so appropriate, for during COVID-19 they have had more pressure on them than ever before. Historically, our Christian Churches have relied on a physical presence in order to practice our faith. Modeled after the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, “God made flesh,” we have always excelled in person-to-person relationship building. Robbing our Christian Churches of meeting in person has thrown us completely off, and we have had to reinvite ourselves in the moment and on the fly.

However, I believe that this is exactly what we have needed in order to transform our way of doing ministry into something new and transformative. Our Christian paradigm of “attractional worship” hasn’t been working for decades, as we have been declining in worship attendance on a yearly basis. So, it is good news that we have had to adapt and innovate during this lockdown period. We cannot go back to the way it has always been.

Unfortunately, our clergy have borne the brunt of this need to change and innovate. Moving to online formats, trying to care for our laity when we cannot physically be with them, and keeping the church alive with dwindling resources has been a challenge that is unparalleled in our contemporary times. Not many of our clergy learned these skills sets in seminary! So, our clergy have had to adapt and experiment. Learning videography, editing, and sound production, which goes to the technical side of online worship, has been a huge learning curve.

Almost all of our clergy have done this without complaining or feeling sorry for themselves. They have been faithful to the Gospel in caring for our laity and churches. They have given their all during such a stressful season, and they deserve not just a month of public recognition, but probably a whole year!

So, I would ask you, our beloved laity, to thank your clergy publicly and privately. I would also like you to reward them for their hard work by giving them extra time off during this upcoming holiday season. If our Staff-Parish Relations Committees can provide extra vacation and time off in the coming months, this is a way for you to thank them actively. You may want to gift them with a mini-vacation, or restaurant gift cards for the whole family. Our Wespath Pensions Board has suggested a number of ways to recognize and reward our clergy, and here is a link to their suggestions: 50 Ways to Support Your Pastor’s Well-Being (PDF). Our United Methodist Communications has also provided some tips here.

Since “Clergy Appreciation Month” is a one-and-done type of event, my suggestion is that we extend this until the end of the year. This will give us the time to plan and implement a recognition that is truly worthy of what our clergy deserve.

In this past year and a half, our clergy have given their all so that our laity can be taken care of and our churches held together. Now, it can be our turn to tell and show them how much we have appreciated all they have done for us. They certainly deserve nothing less.

Be the Hope,

Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop