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DYK? - Breathe

Posted: October 25 2020 at 08:44 AM
Author: Rev. Arlene Christopherson, Ass't to the Bishop and Dir. of Connectional Ministries

I have a smartwatch. I like it. I can check the weather, look at a text, answer the phone, record my activities, and check my calendar, all from a little device on my wrist. Sometimes, I am left to wonder just how smart that watch is? Lately, when I least expect it, my watch vibrates and flashes the message “breathe." The first few times I thought it was a nice message. Now I stop and wonder – was I holding my breath and didn’t even know it? Did my watch sense something I wasn’t aware of? Is it programmed to flash a “breathe” reminder every now and then, no matter what I’m doing? Do I sometimes stop breathing? 

Breathing is an autonomic function usually done without any thought or effort. It’s something we take for granted. Without it, we would pass out or even worse. These days we would all benefit from a reminder to breathe.  As we move into the next spike of the pandemic and realize that the hope of returning to normal, yet this year, is fading – it’s easy to sink so low into the fog of our circumstances that we forget to do what is second nature to us, breathe.

Breathing brings oxygen into our bloodstream, expands our lungs, promotes healing, alleviates pain, keeps us alive, calms the mind and centers our spirit. Meditation, exercise, and mindfulness practices all help us breathe slower and more deeply. One of our conference staff, Director of Benefits and Human Services, Woody Bedell, is an expert in HeartMath, a system that teaches mindful breathing, promoting healthy heart rhythms that enhance our wellbeing.  (You can learn more about HeartMath at

Stop reading. Take a slow deep breath, fill your lungs with oxygen, and then slowly exhale. 

This reminder is more important as we move ever closer to our virtual Annual Conference Session. Something we have never done before. Our Annual Conference Session, like every aspect of our living and the work in the church, is a feat of adaptation. Overall as an organization, churches are not known for rapid change. We often joke about the seven last words of the church “We’ve never done it that way before.” Those words have allowed us to cling to old ways in a new world. Now as “keepers of tradition” and “resisters of change” everything about our traditions and routine are changed!  Breathe!

This pace of change is exhausting. As I Zoom from meeting to meeting with clergy and laity alike, one of the most common themes shared is that of exhaustion. Doing things differently takes more thought and new actions. In the midst of that exhaustion, we need a reminder to breathe. Breathe in the spirit of God, sink into God’s arms of prayer, reflect on how far we have come, celebrate how much we have adapted, know that even as the challenges continue we are not alone. Breathe in the “ruah,” the Hebrew word for the breath of God, and feel the grace of God giving us peace and courage. 

Breathe is my “watch” word as I work with a great staff all rising to the challenge of this year’s unique annual conference. I am grateful for Anne Marie Gerhardt (Director of Communications), Diane Strzelecki (Communications Specialist) and Laura Lopez (Events Coordinator). I am grateful for a visionary, flexible bishop, and a supportive annual conference committee. I will be doing a lot of deep breathing these next few weeks!

None of us have done it this way before, we are all learning on the fly, adapting in the moment. I understand (I experience) the exhaustion, but I also celebrate the grace of God that gives us the courage and the strength to keep moving on. Breathe. 

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