In early March I gave up my occasional trips to the YMCA as COVID-19 silently, devastatingly moved through our home state of Connecticut. While I would take lunchtime walks some days, and my husband and I would canoe or kayak on the weekend, it was quickly apparent that my exercise “routine” was not so routine after all.
The emotional feeling of being stuck in our home led to actual physical stagnation (and vice versa—a vicious cycle), and despite having some quarantine practices that served my heart and spirit, regular physical activity for my body was not one of them.
Meanwhile, my college-age daughter who was unexpectedly home from her school had developed a workout regimen with any and every piece of equipment she could find in our basement. Though she was content to exercise on her own, in early July I nervously took my place beside her in the makeshift basement gym, asking questions like, “You want me to lift that?” and “You think I can do what on one leg?”
My daughter was an encouraging trainer, insisting that I try everything, modifying exercises when necessary, and assuring me that I was capable of more than I knew. I patted myself on the back for giving her a chance to be the expert, and I braced myself for sore muscles. I honestly had no idea how long our new “workout partner” relationship would last, but I loved the time with her and decided it was worth the physical challenge.
Fast forward three months, and you can still find me in our basement six days a week, emerging for breakfast with sweat and a smile. I’ve progressed from needing my daughter-partner beside me for accountability to typically being the first one up and on the bike. I’ve increased my daily distance, and I continue to lift weights three days a week. On Sundays, we rest.
Calling this daily exercise a “habit” suggests the commitment is effortless, and this is far from the truth, even three months in. The word “practice” is a better fit. I am choosing to exercise, and the choice becomes more reflexive as I experience the results of this continuous dedication to my physical well-being. At least once a week I say to my daughter, “Thank you—I never would have started this on my own.” The equipment was there. I had time. But I needed encouragement, support, and a solid plan. I needed a knowledgeable companion to renew and strengthen my practice.
When I joined ABHMS to lead In Support of Excellence (ISOE), a financial education program for clergy, I was compelled by the organization’s vision that this current iteration of the program would provide companionship for participants. We would join the program with names and faces, bringing along our stories, and take a journey together to understand how God is calling us to understand and use money in our lives and ministries.
Whereas we previously spoke of financial literacy, we began to describe our focus in ISOE as developing financial practices. With exercise, I knew more than I was willing or able to do, and the same is often true with financial fitness. In a world that insists more is better, no matter the cost, it can be lonely to live on the path of enough, and when we are encouraged to treat money as a private matter, we miss out on one of the most vital markers of the earliest followers of Jesus—sharing resources in common.
We recognize that financial challenges can seem insurmountable. Debt is often accompanied by despair, no matter how justified or essential the expenses that led us to take on that debt….education, healthcare, meeting our families’ basic needs. We also know that positive momentum builds from every action we take to understand our circumstances, plan for the future, and develop a way of managing our resources.
Would you like to join us in our makeshift financial gym, trying things together, practicing anew, asking questions of our household economies and the world’s economy? Can you imagine a new life in God’s economy—as person, pastor and prophet?
Applications for In Support of Excellence 2021 are now open, and we especially encourage applications from pastors who we know from research are structurally disadvantaged in financial matters ranging from compensation to capacity to save for long-term goals:
- Women pastors,
- Pastors of diverse cultural and ethnic identities and
- Pastors whose roles have been reduced from full-time.
We are called to health of body, mind, spirit, household, and community. We can do together what is difficult to begin alone. We are capable and strong.
My son, who works out with his athletic team as well as at home, is a bit surprised by the steady flow of traffic through the basement, a space he used to think of as his own. My husband has now joined the workout squad, and this fall there will be four of us juggling time, space, and equipment in a small space. Good practices thrive in good company. I give thanks for this time my spiritual director recently called “embodied prayer.”
In the same way, I give thanks for the pastors who will join me in the work of financial practice as spiritual practice, a similar sharing of challenge and support. Begin today with the ISOE application at https://abhms.org/ministries/developing-leaders/in-support-of-excellence/. I’m here to cheer you on!