Get Used to Disappointment

Dear friends, 

In my clergy couple household, so many of our conversations are church-themed that it can be hard to remember whether I was really part of a discussion or just overhearing my wife on a Zoom staff meeting when she first mentioned that her congregation won’t be hearing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” this year. It felt like one to save until they are together in person again, and there are plenty of other carols to include in the recorded Christmas Eve service. I understand where she’s coming from, but I have to confess that the news hit me in a tender place. My memories of singing “O come, let us adore him,” go back to childhood, carrying a candle through the sanctuary in Christmas pageants.

As we do, I tried to solve my disappointment. I thought, “It’s okay, I’ll hear it in the Festival of Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve.”

Or will I?

Down the Lessons and Carols rabbit hole I went, researching whether it would happen this year, and if so, how. The choirs, after months of strategizing, will sing, although without a congregation. And while this makes sense, and is a triumph of organization, I still feel — disappointed. 

It's one relatively small change among many in this COVID Advent. Both we and the members of our faith communities are counting up the things we will miss at the same time we are counting down to Christmas. We've all experienced a lot of disappointments this year alongside the larger grief of illness and death in our communities and the continuing stress of a charged political climate. Raised as I was to put a brave face on things, I sometimes struggle with how or whether to express feelings of loss, even though I encourage others to do just that. It's so easy to convince ourselves that other people have it harder or we should be strong enough to handle whatever is happening. But as the words of the Dread Pirate Roberts played over and over in my head, I realized how important it was to share that feeling with someone. 

I took it to the kitchen table. "I'm sad," I said. "Even though I know it's smart for the (grown) kids not to come home for Christmas, I'm sad." "Me, too," said my wife. And we held that for each other, together. 

What disappointments are your closest friends this Advent? And who could witness them for you? My prayer is you will all find a space where it's safe to acknowledge what's missing. 

Martha Spong

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Loving us so dearly - a prayer for pastors

On a frigid winter day,
Snow on the ground,
the sky crystalline,
I drove home on a quiet highway
with too much time to think
about the things I didn’t do well enough –
too much time to run
on the hamster wheel in my head
chasing if onlys,
too much time to wonder
if I misunderstood
what you wanted me to do.

It’s a December memory,
and not the only year I’ve felt that way in Advent.

There is still so much more to do:
confirming readers,
recording videos,
Longest Night,
Christmas Eve.

Don’t get me started
on things undone at home.

O God!

What do you want from me?

The organ track on the Christmas CD ended,
and I heard the opening bars of
O Come All Ye Faithful.
Too soon, I thought.
I was none-too-triumphant.

Why did you want me?
(Did you want me?)

They sang one verse a capella,
the choir in the recording,
and I sang with them until I heard
the answer to my question in a question:

“Who would not love thee, loving us so dearly?”

Tears blurred to snowflakes
on the windshield.
“Thank you,”
I murmured to the sharp sky.
Thank you.

Coaching opportunities in 2021

Start the New Year by making time for yourself to reflect, reorganize, and recommit. 

  • Individual coaching - One-on-one coaching for a season or ongoing.
  • Enneagram coaching - I recently became an iEQ9 Accredited Enneagram Practitioner and am delighted to add Enneagram-centered coaching to my offerings. 
  • Sustaining Clergy - A bimonthly coaching group; sessions include prayer, theological reflection, practical discussions, and accountability for planned actions.
  • Administry - A new monthly coaching group based in a weekly practice to organize your priorities in ministry and beyond; includes two individual sessions.

I work with pastors from all ministry settings and denominations and take particular interest in coaching LGBTQ+ clergy. In the spirit of reparations and economic justice, I offer a reduced rate for Black clergy and clergy serving in positions paid part-time. 

Join a group or schedule a coaching call

Looking for a last-minute Christmas gift?

The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle is available to order through The Pilgrim Press. This collection of original psalms written by ten women faith leaders will be both companion and provocateur for your prayer life, offering a balm in this season of spiritual strife and political struggle. Follow my Facebook page using the button below to watch videos of some of the poems as read by their writers in the coming weeks and join us in an honest space in which lament is heard, love is affirmed, and the body is unashamed before God. 


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Copyright © 2020 Martha Spong - Author, Pastor, Coach, All rights reserved.

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