From left, the Very Rev. Michael T. Sniffen of Cathedral...

From left, the Very Rev. Michael T. Sniffen of Cathedral of the Incarnation, Sister Anjani Seepersaud of Global Harmony House and Rabbi Anchelle Perl of Chabad of Mineola. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski; Steve Pfost; Avraham Perl

Lay people can usually take a break from routine by exchanging work gear for beachwear and a fancy cocktail on a vacation from responsibilities. But what of clergy, for whom leaving the grid may be more difficult because their vocation requires a 24/7 commitment? This week’s clergy discuss how they balance their pastoral duties with personal downtime.

The Very Rev. Michael T. Sniffen

Dean, Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City

Listening to people’s lives as a pastor is a privilege that requires significant reflection on one’s own life and experiences. Pastoral care is primarily a ministry of presence. It includes words, but not always. It is focused on deep listening and an ability to refrain from offering advice in many circumstances.

This care is different from that offered by a psychoanalyst, a grief counselor, a life coach or a friend. It is focused on helping someone discover the presence of God in their life. Although many pastors have additional qualifications to offer specific forms of emotional support, most refer to colleagues for special care. Self-knowledge, along with a healthy relationship to God, is essential for supporting spiritual awareness in others.

In order to be of the best pastoral use, my own practices of self-care include scheduled daily prayer, weekly therapy, monthly meetings with a spiritual director, an annual spiritual retreat and regular conversation with a group of pastors caring for one another as we care for those we serve.

It is also important to ensure ample time off from pastoral duties to spend unhurried time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies and interests. Accountability to these practices is an essential part of the pastoral vocation and makes the work sustainable and joyful.

Sister Anjani Seepersaud

Coordinator of Global Harmony House, the Raja Yoga Meditation Center of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization, Great Neck

Taking care of myself, recharging my spiritual well-being, is essential if I will be of any spiritual assistance to others. If I don’t have myself in order, I cannot help another.

I start my day with raja yoga meditation, which for me is focusing my mind on the spiritual being, the soul, located behind the eyes. I feel the energy of life that is me, an operator of the body. I then think about and connect to my original home, Brahmand-Nirvana, the soul world, and there I experience lightness, peace, love and silence in the presence of the supreme soul, God. With this connection, I feel the power of my original being and experience the truth of my eternal self. I allow the feelings and energy from God to flow to me.

I now have the energy and love to face the day and offer the same vibration to others. This, along with a daily class and spiritual reading, guides me in my interaction with others and the issues they bring to me each day.

Rabbi Anchelle Perl

Director, Chabad of Mineola

For starters, this question gives me the shakes, for it might leave the impression that there is some kind of disconnect or conflict between one’s public and private life. Wrong! One cannot be two-faced, acting one way in public and being otherwise in home.

One’s pastoral presence is only a true one if one lives up to it at all times. If a person lives in two worlds, his words and teachings won’t be from the heart. Only if I care for myself spiritually (and of course physically by exercising and eating healthy) and live a life filled with mission and purpose 24/7, can I truly be of worth to others with my leadership. This synergy of one’s personality is because body and soul are intrinsically connected. Kabbalah teaches us that a small hole in the soul is a big hole in the body. Meaning to say, what we experience physically reflects an emotional, mental and spiritual state as well.

However, if there is a divide and we focus on ourselves differently than we are seen in public, we cross a fine line between a healthy and strong body and turning our body into an idol. So we must stay focused and sensitive. This doesn’t mean I take a shower wearing my yarmulke!

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