Corin Pilling reflects on the new pressures on community leaders generated by the pandemic and offers some simple, practical self-care responses.
He also looks back on his work at Livability and announces his departure next month. As we all look beyond Covid-19, he shares his hopes for a renewed commitment to building a better society where trust rather than fear prevails and where everyone can truly take part.
“By this stage in our community response to coronavirus we’ve negotiated many changes, from mastering more flattering camera angles in our zoom worship to working out the logistics of a social-distanced foodbank. The ingenuity and kindness I’m seeing is reflective of many churches and communities who have stepped up to serve at a time when it’s most been needed. The words of Stanley Hauerwas seem pertinent at this time. ‘The first task of the church is to exhibit in our common life the kind of community possible when trust, and not fear, rules our lives.’
As I enter my last month of working for Livability, these words feel reflective of the best of the last five years and call us all to commit to a new rich vision for the future, despite the complexity and challenges. As I look back over the work I’ve been involved with, at its heart I see the invitation to build a community where everyone can truly take part. There have been significant markers which show we are moving towards this. In building participation for disabled people, growing dementia awareness and in developing our community wellbeing, we have all participated in shifts in thinking and practice that have tested us to love and welcome in new ways that have changed us.
Something we all struggle with is trusting that what we bring is enough – and current circumstances and growth in need can easily lead to us feeling overwhelmed. In this time – as always – we have to face our own limitations. It feels like almost everything we do takes twice as long for half of the output. Speak to somebody who has spent 6 hours on a Zoom call, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. The unwelcome fallout of a pandemic is exhaustion for many in community leadership (alongside those in the caring professions, or others on the front line) and this is something we need to take seriously.
What challenges our capacity to maintain a healthy response at this time is that we’ve changed our approach to our work and our equilibrium is disturbed. We’re often tired and may be experiencing some symptoms of low mood. Well-established patterns for self-maintenance have been upturned and it may take some time to establish new ways that sustain us.
So with this, my last reflection for Livability, I urge you to actively look after your wellbeing at this time. It will need concerted effort, and is likely to include the following:
Honesty about your own needs and the ability to say ‘stop’ when you need to. Take time to build new rhythms of rest.
Knowing that if you need to stop, and something doesn’t happen as a result, you still need to stop.
Conversations with others where you can say ‘I’m struggling’ and know you’ll be listened to and not ‘fixed’.
An ability to reflect, and draw deeply from the well of God, perhaps in new ways.
My new role involves leading the work of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries UK. Sanctuary started in Canada, and is committed to equipping churches with a compassionate and practical response in their communities.
Sanctuary have developed a resource we’re offering to church and community leaders to help support our wellbeing at this time. We’ve called it ‘Deep-Rooted: A Resource to Sustain Our Wellbeing During Coronavirus.’ You’ll find it here.
The guide offers a reflective process to help you take stock of your current situation and consider the best ways to maintain your wellbeing and prevent burn out. I hope I’ll be able to continue to support you in your community efforts through this new ministry, so please stay in touch. I’m also excited at continued partnership with Livability as we build on the work we’ve begun.
So in conclusion, thank you for all you have brought in your communities during this period as we ease out of lockdown, and beyond. I’m deeply grateful for the gift of relationships and partnership as we’ve learned from each other and seen lives touched, and sometimes when we’re not looking too closely, even transformed.
As Livability continues to invite the wider church to become a community where everyone can take part, I hope you experience the Good News of Jesus as a whole life event. At this time of disruption, may this be even more so. Let’s choose to build the kind of communities where perfect love casts out our fear, so that trust may be at the centre”.
Corin Pilling, June 2020.