How are you holding up?

Written by Trace Haythorn

Filed under: News

Today we honor the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While many of you will continue to serve in the midst of this pandemic, others will volunteer in communities, making his dream of the Beloved Community one step closer to reality. In light of the last few weeks - months - years - even decades - God knows we need the spirit and intentions of leaders like Dr. King to come alive in ways that crosses borders and bridges, heals and unties, transforms and reimagines what we might yet be as neighborhoods and nations.

We’ve been thinking about so many of you over these last several months, wondering how you are doing, how you are holding up, how you are guiding your students through the dual pandemics, how you are integrating our political unrest into your educational programs (for surely it is on the hearts and minds of those with whom you serve). “How are you holding up?” seems to be a question on every phone call these days. We are so grateful for the community of support this association provides for its members, the ways you care for one another, the ways you model that care for your students and the communities you serve.

Some of you have experienced incredible transitions during these many months, moving to new jobs, sometimes having to move your homes as well. There are so many new precautions, sometimes simply slowing down these transition processes, sometimes making them feel like bureaucratic messes. And yet you still find your way, you still serve, you make it work.

I’ve thought a lot about the new chaplain to the US House of Representatives, Margaret Kibben. Kibben is a rear admiral and was the first woman to head the chaplain corps of the Navy and Marines. Her first week as the new House chaplain was also the week of January 6, a day that will forever change our understanding of our country. After opening the session that was for the counting of electoral college votes, Kibben found herself praying with members of the house, staffers, and other employees throughout the day. As one who has served in active combat settings, she knows what it is to be in the “theater of war.” And yet with a steady, grounded, faithful hand she sat, stood, walked, and even crawled with people through these horrific moments. Her first week was nothing short of incredible.

I have had friends describe me as pathologically hopeful. I receive that description as a compliment, though I must admit hope feels hard right now. Living and serving in Georgia, we have experienced an additional level of scrutiny here that has made people who would ordinarily be unknown public servants suddenly heroes and pariahs. In so many ways, I wish we could bring the whole country into an extended IPR to process what’s happening here.

I offer that idea somewhat tongue in cheek, but I also offer it with a recognition of how important your roles as counselors, educators, and students of spiritual care are in this historical moment. We’ve had difficult moments before, but the sense of some deep fracture in the foundation of our country in the midst of two pandemics – how do we go forward from here? What does the other side of this moment look like for our nation? For our communities? For our ACPE?

This is a time that needs your wisdom, your leadership, your compassion and your commitments to integrated inclusion. I know many of you are exhausted. I know many are worried about jobs, health, and family. And I know that all of you have the kinds of reflective leadership skills that we so desperately need in this moment.

How will you bring those skills into the commons, not just to advance professional spiritual care, but to demonstrate in ways that, as one writer describes, we can engage in the new reconstruction, a new way of being together, one that just might be defined by the existential hope that lies at the very heart of our shared work?

I enjoyed teaching last week in the DMin program at Ecumenical Theological Seminary about leadership and change. I was reminded several times about the role history, culture, and hermeneutics play in our meaning-making processes. ACPE has always prided itself in being more of a movement than an association. How can you make that history a reality today in your community?


Trace Haythorn is the Executive Director of ACPE and can be reached at