‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us’. (Hebrews 12:1)
It was strange seeing people running the London Marathon through Godalming as I drove to church last Sunday – as if Storm Alex had blown them off course. It struck me that here is a picture of the race that faces leaders at present: relocating, reinventing and reorganizing themselves, through the storm of an ugly pandemic. In running terms, I avoid such extremes. In leadership terms, it’s not so easy. But if simple couch to 5k running has taught me anything, it’s that pace in challenging circumstances is crucial – and it’s closely related to endurance.
I’ve been reflecting on this in relation to two groups of people this week.
First, our ordinands who will be ordained (at last!) across seven services next weekend. Please do pray for those to be made deacon and ordained priest this year (I’ve got the Society of Catholic Priests [SCP] to join me in a Novena of Prayer for them – 9 mins @ 9pm each day this week – you’re welcome to join us – details below). They’re beginning their ministerial races at such a challenging time for church leaders. And for those parishes who have received or are receiving curates, please do watch out for them in a context in which they may be less visible than would ordinarily be the case.
Secondly, my prayers are particularly with our much loved church, school and chaplaincy leaders: clergy, churchwardens, heads, chairs of governors and all who share in leadership at this time. We are facing a situation which would never be expected of runners. Having completed what we thought would be a sprint, it’s been extended into a marathon. So many of us are naturally tired and feeling the pain at this stage in the race and, if we’re not careful, this will lead to an exhaustion that will at best effect good leadership and at worst make us ill.
As an amateur, I offer six running tips: (1) we must ensure to eat, sleep, pray and rest well; (2) as the race moves from a sprint to a marathon – we must change gear; (3) we must decide what is important for this part of the race – and offload things which are not for now; (4) when the storm gets impossibly difficult, we must rest up and shelter for a while; (5) we’re not running solo – we must learn to be better at teamwork; (6) please, please, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to call for help when needed – our love and support of you is a top priority.
I don’t know whether the author of the letter to the Hebrews was a runner. But he chose an appropriate metaphor to talk about endurance – particularly in encouraging those who must have felt weary in a different way. Let’s do all we can to help each other through this marathon, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
SCP Zoom Prayer for those being ordained this week: 9 days at 9pm for 9mins:
Meeting ID: 991 1322 4638