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IFYC is Closing for a Week – Here’s Why

A hammock in soft sunlight

IFYC is taking the week off, from August 3-7. Why? People are at the heart of what we do – and it starts with our team. In these extraordinary times of global pandemic, protest for racial equity, civic unrest, recession, and general anxiety, we have been working hard to meet the moment. It is a privilege and an honor to do so. And as we look to a fall full of unknowns, we are taking the advice of Jen Bailey, IFYC alumna and founder of the Faith Matters Network, taking what she calls a sacred pause.

Growing up, the highlight of my summer was always camp, specifically Camp Tamarack, an American Baptist campground in Waupaca, WI. While the religious diversity of my summer camp consisted of a few Catholics, agnostics and, possibly Lutherans, I have learned that summer camp holds a special place in many hearts across traditions – the songs and practices may be different, but the relationships, identity exploration and star gazing holds true. This too is paused this year amidst Covid-19’s continues spread in the U.S.

Kids may not be going to camp this summer, but imagine with me for just a moment a group of hormonal teenagers in the WI woods for a week. No TV, no radio, just guitars and campfires, flag raising, Bible Study, swimming and canoeing, and worship every morning. Many moments stick with me from camp, but one of the most memorable centers Paul Mayeshiba, a lay church leader and the volunteer director of camp in the 90s (and beyond). Not only is the role unpaid, but full-time professionals take a week off to serve this post. Paul was there because he loves God and he believes in the spiritual formation of young adults.

One morning at Worship we see a tower of cups, stacked in a pyramid shape. Paul takes a pitcher of water and starts pouring into the top cup, eventually spilling over that and subsequent layers of cups, filling each layer below in turn before the water continues onward to the bottom of the stack. His point? One’s cup must be full to be able to give to others. Abundance is possible through caring for one’s self as the beautiful creation each of us is. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) One’s spiritual practice, self-love and care must be healthy if we want to be of use to anyone else. After all, in the creation story, God too rests. For a young woman who had internalized cultural messages of selfless service, this was a pretty radical notion. In college I came to love Audre Lorde’s wisdom that as a black, lesbian, activist in a world structured to degrade and diminish and even destroy her, her selfcare was not an act of self-indulgence, but indeed an act of political warfare.

In a June Webinar, “Rest and Respite in 2020? Self-care for the Long Game“ with Shakeer Abdullah (Vice President of Student Affairs at Clayton State University), Yael Shy (Senior Director of Global Spiritual Life at New York University and the Founder and Director of MindfulNYU) and Gail Stearns (Irvin C. and Edy Chapman Dean of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Chapman University), we heard about some of the techniques those leaders used to care for themselves and their communities in these times.

Shakeer, Gail, and Yael agreed that despite the inherent need we all have to rest, opportunities are hard to come by. They discussed the many socioeconomic factors that dictate who has time and space to rest, and that even those who do often struggle with an impulse to be working or an inability to be fully present. Shakeer, Gail, and Yael shared their rest practices with one another and with all of us, in hopes that those who are able may learn to get the rest we all need and deserve. Here are their recommendations, compiled by my colleague, Katherine Obrien.

  1. Consider what you want – If you want to make more time for rest or reconsider how you use your free time, challenge yourself to think about why you value and want rest. Our wise guests shared that they don’t seek time for reflection solely to process or enjoy their lives as individuals, but to think about their place in the many communities they are apart of it. Be it your interpersonal relationships, your community, the institutions you support, or the people your existence affects, time to reflect on your role in the world is invaluable. Rest allows you to sit with yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions, and thus ensures you return to your work with the values you hold guiding you.
  2. Get outside – When possible, for however long you can, enjoy the outdoors. Whether you immerse yourself in greenery on a nature trail or find peace on city streets, spending time in the ever-changing outdoors can increase your feelings of connection to the earth and all of us who share it. 
  3. Be Mindful of Screens – Depending on your lifestyle, your screen-time could be off the charts or barely there by 5 p.m. Because activities such as work, relaxation, and socialization can each happen on or offline these days, be mindful of the patterns of screen use you follow. Shakeer, for example, used the month of Ramadan to not only fast from food and water but from social media and TV as well.
  4. Plan Ahead – Stepping back from one’s daily responsibilities for even a small amount of time doesn’t feel doable for many people. Carefully planning and clearly communicating the time you need for rest can ensure that you feel confident and enjoy taking it. Include your rest practice in your schedule, be it days off or lunch breaks, and share your boundaries around rest with those you work, live, or communicate with frequently.
  5. Refresh your worship practice – If you have a reflection or meditation practice that is subject to change, refresh it by reading new authors, listening to new leaders, learn from new teachers in your practice, or whatever else may help you connect deeply and differently.
  6. Find Your “Thing” – Lastly, the practices above are those that Shakeer, Gail, and Yael expressed they find value in. These are their “things,” and we each have our own. If you can’t think of your “thing” or find yourself wary of engaging the rest practices you normally enjoy, set aside time to experiment. In a time where many of us are limiting our activities to those based in home, our routines may need additional effort and attention to bloom.

IFYC’s work in the world is focused on humanity. In many ways this is the messy and beautiful work that artificial intelligence and machine learning can never fully replace. How can we foster environments in which people who come down differently on ultimate concerns still live together in mutual respect? How can we most effectively nurture the skills people need in order to tap into the strengths of a diverse society to create something that no one person or group could achieve on their own? How does a diverse democracy persist through difficult times that shake our foundations, question pervasive stories and public statues, and invite what John Lewis famously called “good trouble, necessary trouble”? In this moment, in this distinctly human work that we are committed to, in partnership with you, we want to honor the human need to rest. We appreciate your understanding as we take a little longer to reply to e-mail and as we pause on adding much new content to Interfaith America.

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.