“How are you doing?”: the many moods of an introverted pastor in an age of coronavirus

Like you, I suspect, many friends and colleagues have recently asked me, “How are you doing,” as we endure this strange season of coronavirus.  Of course, I’m asking the same of them.

It’s an understandable question.  These are strange, unprecedented times, for all of us.  We’re all worried about the virus.  We’re all worried about the economy.  We’re all worried about our jobs.  We’re all worried about our friends and families.

We all wonder when this will end.

We wonder what the status of our lives will be when this is over.

Not to mention, lots of us have other “stuff” going on , besides coronavirus.  For the moment, the “stuff,” that previously seemed SO significant, is probably “on-hold.”  But, the “stuff” hasn’t likely gone away!

Of course, if we care, we ask and are asked, “How are you doing?”

So, “How are YOU doing?’  Please feel free to respond in the comments.  I really would like to know!

“How am I doing?”  Truth is, I feel like I’m on a roller coaster in the dark – like the currently closed Space Mountain, at Walt Disney World – not sure which high or low or twist or turn or drop is next; wondering if my seat belt will hold; wondering when this weird, wild ride will be over.

Exhilaration:  Though I’d very much like for this NOT to be happening, I have to admit there are times I’m excited, energized, exhilarated.  As a pastor, separated from my flock, unable to offer my usual pastoral services, I’m learning how to do ministry in new ways.  I’ve had to learn how to lead from a distance, how to use Facebook Live, how to stay connected via technology like ZOOM, how to evaluate and deploy limited resources.  In other words, coronavirus and social distancing is forcing me to think and function “outside of the box,” tapping into recently unused creativity, which I find exhilarating.

Anger:  Today, I decided to stop watching the President’s press conferences.  This situation is difficult enough, without adding boiling anger in reaction to his idiocy, and the growing temptation to scream and throw things at my TV.  Besides, I need my TV for Netflix!  Seriously, I’m afraid that anger occasionally spills over in other directions, to other undeserving recipients.  I’m sorry!

Blessed Isolation:  I’ll be honest, in some ways this is an introvert’s dream come true!  Well, not really.  But, undeniably, as an introvert, I’m perfectly wired for “social distancing.”  Need me to stay home, and avoid contact with people?  No problem!  Great!  Thank you for asking!  Glad to do my part!  See you in a few months, years, decades, whatever!  It’s not that I don’t love people, of course.  I do.  I really, really do.  But – no offense to my friends and family – I also crave and need extraordinary amounts of silence, space, and solitude.  But, there are TWO problems:

  1. I have to keep reminding myself that people – my family, friends, congregation, and staff – still need to hear from me!  I realize social distancing isn’t the same as social isolation.
  2. All of these #%&$ ZOOM meetings are maxing me out!

Crushing Inadequacy:  In the days following the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (I lived in the neighborhood and served the closest United Methodist Church), I was plagued by an overwhelming feeling of pastoral inadequacy.  In the days, weeks, and months after the shooting, I struggled with wondering what to do, if I was doing enough, what I was forgetting to do, and if what I was doing was inadequate.  I’ve not found peace, to this day, with those questions.  And, those same questions and feelings have returned:  “What am I supposed to be doing?” “Am I doing enough?” “What/who am I forgetting?”  It is a terrible, crushing feeling, in the center of my chest, and I hate it!

Gratitude:  I’m thankful.  I’m thankful to be well, and for the health of my family.  I’m thankful to have secure employment.  I’m thankful for my home.  I’m thankful for extra time to spend with my wife, to rest, to catch-up on reading, to work on some personal projects, to write more, and even to enjoy some of my hobbies.  I’m also thankful for friends who’ve reach out to me, to ask, “How are you doing?”

Worried:  How long will this last?  How bad will it get?  Will I get sick?  Will someone I know get sick?  Will someone I know die?  Will we run out of toilet paper??  Will we run out of food??  Is this the end of the world????  Will Trump get re-elected???  ARE WE ALL GOING TO DIE?????  Sorry!!!  Worry, you may have noticed, has a tendency to snowball and escalate.

Dazed and Confused:  Honestly, with the situation changing daily, requiring new and different thoughts, ideas, decisions, abilities from me, as a pastor and leader, compounded with fears and worries, my head feels muddled most of the time.  I miss the luxury of clear thinking, and focusing on one thing – or maybe just a few things – at a time!

Prayerful:  Truthfully, I don’t know what to pray.  But, I pray nonetheless.

Curious:  I’m REALLY curious about life on the other side of coronavirus, especially for the Church and ministry, particularly for the church I lead and serve.  When will people come back to church?  How long will it take to find a new normal?  On the other side of this crisis, what will feel important, and what will seem trivial?  How will what we’ve learned about doing ministry “virtually” impact how we do ministry when we don’t need to be virtual?  When we’re able, will we yearn to be together, or will we fear being together?  After so many have been unemployed for so long, what will be the Church’s role in meeting their physical needs? If many lose loved ones to this terrible disease, what grief services and pastoral care will be needed?  What will the world need to recover – emotionally, psychologically, socially, physically, spiritually – from our collective trauma.  There will be needs, and a significant role for the Church to play.  I’m REALLY curious what that will be.

I’m sure there’s more, but I’ve bored you enough already.  In a nut shell, suffice it to say, that’s how I’m doing.

So, again, “How are you doing?”  I really would love to know.

9 thoughts on ““How are you doing?”: the many moods of an introverted pastor in an age of coronavirus

  1. Dear Brother Vance,
    I am doing a whole lot better now after having read your recent posting. You see there are probably many, many other people out there who are experiencing and having the same thoughts and emotions and spiritual questions like the ones you so bravely shared with the rest of us who may be too afraid or ashamed to admit publicly to friends or family or to even clergy what you just found the courage to open and share publicly. You bring the ‘human touch’ to ministry when you courageously bare your wounded soul publicly through this forum. That feeling in the center of your chest….is a gift from God…because it is right next to your beating heart and so with every breath you take the Love and Passion that surges through your body is reminding you that just like so many of us out here in the world; We ARE His hands and feet in this crazy mad world of today. So no matter what it is you do that you may think is small or insignificant to others….is HUGE in His eyes because you “Picked up your mat and walked…..when you felt you were to weak to do so!”
    You say that you are an introvert but your heart and passion is that of an extrovert!
    Be safe, be blessed and above all keep on keepin’ on dear Brother!

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  2. Will we run out of toilet paper??

    This. So much. Our modern-day quandary, honestly @_@

    I am so glad to read your personal thoughts and about your emotions, especially after reading your post 2 days ago “Get up, and walk!”. I was wondering how intense your feelings of helplessness were. It would have bordered on worry, but that is something that I am actively trying to not do amidst this pandemic.

    You ask “How are you doing?”
    I will respond by saying, “I am doing my best not to actively worry.”

    Rest assured, I am fully aware that worry can be that passive feeling of unease. However, I have been making a conscious effort to minimize my exposure of news and minimize my mental processing towards fruitless future gazing. Yes, I know my general plans. What I will be doing once church gathers again, what I am going to do concerning work, and what things will I spend my money on.

    Pretty much anything beyond that is relegated to the “I don’t have to give a s-opinion” box. At least for this pandemic moment. I can focus on what the ekklēsía needs to do for the healing of the world when we get to the point we can actually work on that stuff.

    Because as of right now? All I can do is stay at home. But that’s just me, a simple 26-year-old’s view of affairs.

    Dr. Rev. Vance, I am loving your blog posts. I am glad you have time and a “purpose” for them again. We will both have a lot of divine work to do in the coming months, so my one suggestion would be – Pray for songs! … s-strength … probably strength.

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  3. Hi Vance! I know this is a challenging time for you, church staff, church leadership and the congregation. There are so many times I miss being a part of the church staff. Then there are things that people at my new work environment are experiencing and I realize I am where God intended me to be. To help minster to the other sheep in the flock with me. Now..this COVID-19 has us all working from home and ministering to each other in new and different ways. Thank you for reaching out to the Icardi family during their difficult time. He told me how much it meant to him. We all need to keep the faith and know God is with all of us. Blessing to you, your family and First Church.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello, I echo many of your thoughts. Jim and I are hanging in there, the two hardest things;not being able to be with our grand babies, and the knowledge of Jim’s compromised immune system. God is Faithful and Good, so the bottom line is , He will Win.😊 I actually feel confident in our leaders, knowing they are doing everything possible to help all Americans and I know God is hearing all our prayers. We miss y’all and hope one day to visit your church or see y’all in Jacksonville, Love, Susie

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well hello Pastor Vance, Brian and I are doing well. We have both retired and are just getting use to this new phase of our life and then “this” hit. This is just too much time together!!!! Not really. Brian is teaching me how to play chess and we’ve even brought out the backgammon game again. We enjoy reading your blogs or mini sermons as I call them. They make me remember just how much I miss your presence at First Church. But honestly, they make me a little sad. They bring up feelings that I guess I really haven’t gotten over……until now that is. This is my healing email. I was very disappointed when you and Kelly decided to leave. I knew the reasons, who wouldn’t want to go back to their roots especially when your mother needed help. I doubt anyone would have turned that down.  But then I was angry. Well actually my feelings were hurt which usually turns to anger in my case. That’s definitely something I need to work on. Angry after I read the blog about how excited you were to go back to Orlando. It was a beautiful piece directed to those you had known in the past and were excited to see again. And at the very bottom there were a few lines thanking First Church for all we had done while you were with us. I felt like the unloved step child. But you know what, I realize I need to “put on my big girl panties” and deal with it, how I hope you’ve heard the phrase before. I do realize you would never intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings, even though we all are guilty of doing so at some point. You were excited to return to where it all started, and now being the senior pastor, well it doesn’t get any better than that. I’m going to read your newest blog after I send this, “I’m currently reading” and I’m going to smile. I am thankful for technology and the fact I can still benefit from your “mini-sermons.” You made a big impact on a lot of people, Brian and I included and for that I will always be grateful. Please give my best to Kelly. Stay safe and healthy. God knows we need you. Still a fan!!!Lisa McClean P.S. I still think of you when I go to garage sales. You’ve missed out on a lot of good stuff!!

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