Sharing the bread, sharing the burden

If you’ve been paying attention to the sports scene in Montreal lately—and why would you? It’s a pretty dismal picture—you’ll know that Carey Price, the star goalie of the Montreal Canadiens, has just returned from a 30-day stint in the NHL’s player assistance program. This is a program meant to support players dealing with mental health and addiction challenges.

On his return, Price posted a statement on Instagram that confirmed he had been in a residential treatment facility for substance use. He wrote, “Things had reached a point that I realized I needed to prioritize my health for both myself and for my family. Asking for help when you need it is what we encourage our kids to do, and it was what I needed to do.”

Along with the rest of Montreal, I hope Price has found the help he needs. And I hope all of us can hear the wisdom in his words: when you get in trouble, ask for help.

There is a small industry in the church of clergy making jokes about things they didn’t learn in seminary. I know this because I am often on the receiving end of these comments. My church hasn’t filed a charitable return for years and we’re about to lose our non-profit status—what do I do? The foundation of our parish hall collapsed—what do I do? There’s a global pandemic and we can’t meet in person anymore—what do we do? I empathize with all of this because in my job I am asked to do lots of things I never learned in seminary. But what I have learned in life is what Carey Price highlights: when I don’t know what to do, I ask for help. It may not always be obvious but in my job I ask for help all the time.

It’s simple enough advice but experience demonstrates that too few people follow it, perhaps especially in the church. Sometimes there is too much emphasis on the clergyperson as a leader in the congregation that ends up drowning out the many other gifts members of the congregation have to offer. (Hello? Body of Christ?) Sometimes a clergyperson’s view of themselves gets warped and they end up thinking they are on some kind of messianic mission, with themselves as the messiah. (Sigh… original sin.) In lots of stories of congregational conflict and clergy misconduct, one can easily say, “If only they had stopped and asked for help!” Thriving in ministry begins by being willing to ask for help.

This is a time of year when lots of students find the burdens of their studies begin to weigh heavily on them, perhaps especially in the midst of a pandemic. Seminary is a great time not only to learn that you should ask for help, but also to practice it. So, if you’re finding yourself facing challenges at this time of year, remember the first step: ask for help.

Faithfully yours,

Jesse Zink

This message was written by Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.