Clergy also need sabbath, says counsellor Anthony Yeo
PASTORS need to have a sabbath, too, according to Mr Anthony Yeo, a well-known counsellor and part-time lecturer at Trinity Theological College.
Mr Yeo, Clinical Director of Counselling at the Counselling and Care Centre, was speaking on the topic “The Pastor’s Well-Being” at the annual Pastors’ Fellowship on May 22 at the Methodist Centre. More than 80 pastors attended the morning programme at the new Sophia Blackmore Hall on the 6th floor of the Methodist Centre.
Mr Yeo noted that pastors need to take regular time off because they often suffer from “compassion fatigue” and their work in the spiritual realm can make them more vulnerable than others. In keeping with those concerns, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon announced during the programme the decision of the Council of Presidents to have a Pastors’ Retreat next year.
“The rhythm of life is found in the first chapter of Genesis and it includes the sabbath,” Mr Yeo said. He referred to the commentary on the sabbath in Leviticus 23:3 – “you shall do no work.” However, he recalled that in the early days of his counselling he often met the common assumption that pastors never have problems.
Offering a biblical basis for his emphasis on self-care, he shared three familiar New Testament accounts: Jesus sleeping in the boat during a storm; Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet while Martha worked; and Jesus healing the paralytic. Pastors, reflecting the sense of urgency characteristic of our society, may be more like Martha or the disciples in the storm, while also trying to be like Jesus, healing the paralytic.
Mr Yeo exhorted the pastors with “four movements in self-care”:
1. Consider your ways; take stock of your life;
2. Inoculate yourselves against the stresses of life through self-control. He noted that self-control is a fruit of the spirit;
3. Find your rhythm that includes regular sabbath and setting clear boundaries around your time; and
4. Have good relationships, especially developing a good support network among family and friends.
Several pastors responded with questions and suggestions. The Rev Wee Boon Hup asked if there might be some arrangements between Annual Conferences or different denominations that allow the clergy to discuss sensitive personal issues.
The Rev Gordon Aw asked if financial arrangements could be made to allow access to quality counselling for pastors.
The event began with a light breakfast and ended with lunch. Following a time of worship, Bishop Dr Solomon presided over the Holy Communion.
The Pastors’ Fellowship is an annual event held in conjunction with the commemoration of Aldersgate. However, this year the Aldersgate Convention was trimmed to the Aldersgate Service and Pastors’ Fellowship when the speakers from the United States were forced to call of their trip here because of SARS.
The Rev George Martzen is Minister Attached to the Bishop’s Office.