For most leaders the past few months have been intense, exhausting, constant, bewildering – and we know there is only more change to navigate and lead others through ahead of us. So how do we make certain that we are not leading from the final dregs of whatever energy, wisdom, grace and compassion we have left but leading from souls that are connected to the life-giving breath of God?
In this series, a few different leaders have been sharing from their personal journeys in leadership something they have learned that has been key for them to live and lead in a sustainable way. Stella Campbell shares here around ‘pace.’
A few weeks ago, I heard Jon Tyson use the phrase ‘sacred pace’, and it resonated deeply within me. At the end of February, beginning of March, our church family encountered a number of very painful and difficult situations, all whilst the threat of Covid-19 was beginning to rise. As has been my practice throughout my ministry, I had booked time off in retreat and was looking forward to a few days out of the parish, to recover and reflect and to prepare for Easter. There was a question mark over whether or not to go when Sunday 15th March rolled round. But my gut feeling was that if I was going to be able to lead well in the coming season, I needed time apart, at a different pace.
One of my favourite places for retreat is Pluscarden Abbey, outside Elgin. I was introduced to the Benedictine rule of life and daily rhythm during my divinity studies. It feels like stepping into another world, where time runs more slowly and there is space to think more clearly. It is a place which has often allowed me to connect deeply with God and to discover the path that He is leading me on in that moment – both personally but also as a church leader (often the two are interconnected).
And this time was no exception. In the silence and solitude, in conversation with my companions, and in walking and praying, I grasped a better understanding of what I was being called to in the coming season and found myself led to Psalm 33 : ‘We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.‘
To wait upon the Lord, to put our trust in Him, must mean, among other things, to allow our pace to fall in line with His. Usually that means slowing down for me and being intentional about listening carefully and not running ahead with my own thoughts and ideas. This is something of the ‘sacred pace’ I mentioned earlier.
The pressures of the outside world were hard to keep at bay, and it became apparent that I did need to return home from Pluscarden sooner than expected. But somehow, I felt ready to come back and face the world that was being turned upside down.
As the lockdown has progressed, there have been moments when I have again chosen to step out of my usual pace and allow a catching up of my soul with everything else. We have gone through so much in the last 13 weeks – personally and otherwise. So much trauma and grief, as well as facing big questions about where we go from here. It is only in slowing that some of that can be processed and prayed about. And for me, it is only in waiting upon the Lord, that I truly can have confidence in making decisions and guiding others going forward.
Whatever your normal pace or rhythm is, and no doubt it will have been impacted by lockdown, what would it look like for you to develop a ‘sacred pace’? A pace that allows you to run the marathon set before us, with perseverance, rather than simply sprint for a little while and run out of steam. A pace that allows you to wait upon the Lord and His counsel. A pace that allows you to serve faithfully and with joy.
Stella is minister at Skene Parish Church in Aberdeenshire. Originally from Northern Ireland, Stella enjoys a walk beside the sea. She loves good conversations with friends over good food, a cheeky trip to the cinema and you will often find her buried in a book.