Our Selah’s Team Members’ Perspectives on Faith and Mental Health, and Caring for Pastors
Our Selah is a Zoom-based, sister ministry of Light for the Darkness (L4TD) that serves clergy. It was created in response to a pastor’s plea and the current state of clergy. According to a 2021 Barna Research study, only 35% of pastors are healthy and almost half of young pastors have considered quitting ministry.
The name Our Selah originated from its co-founder’s(Thirza’s) love of Hebrew and the beautiful possible meanings of Selah: a breath, a pause, a rest, but the precise
meaning is unknown. The plural pronoun “Our” added the vital connectional piece of the ministry.
Our Selah offers clergy a space to worship, connect, and be heard by others who deeply understand. Here clergy find a safe place to be less guarded personally and to be supported emotionally and spiritually; there is no need to perform for colleagues or parishioners.
This worshipful support group is co-facilitated by clergy and mental health practitioners. It offers a judgment-free space with room for rejoicing, lamenting, doubting, being heard, held, lifted, and validated. Participants are free to come anonymously with videos off to receive gifts of wisdom, connection, and hope. We have a strong commitment to confidentiality and provide referral resources as needed.
Deborah Viveros, Executive Director @ Our Selah, Masters in Divinity and Public Administration, Spiritual Director Certificate in progress
Fun fact: I was a D-1 college athlete.
What is your approach to ministry? I emphasize a holistic and embodied approach to spirituality, focusing on our humanity rather than a separation between body and spirit.
How does faith inform your work?
My faith overtly informs my work. The belief that God created the world and everything in it in love, as well as the belief that human beings are made in God’s image, undergirds my work.
What is the hardest part of caring for clergy?
Witnessing the ways that church systems and structures drain both its clergy and members.
Keegan Esping, Facilitator, Our Selah and Light 4 the Darkness, Masters in the Arts of Counseling
Fun fact: I’m an avid bookworm and artist
What is your approach to ministry? Honoring each soul who comes into my life as a fellow traveler and image bearer of Yahweh is so important to me. Each person deserves to be seen and heard and I love being able to provide validating caring presence for whatever journey they find themselves on.
How does faith inform your work?
Faith is something that has been present with me my whole life. At times I’ve both wrestled with and embraced it. I have had both positive and negative experiences within the church and have been intimately aware of the beauty and struggle that comes with being in church leadership from a young age. I want to provide a nurturing, authentic space to explore at the moment how each person’s faith journey is being experienced as it’s impacted by church life and their personal stories.
What is the hardest part of living and working with your mental health variances?
Severe depression and CPTSD can often make life feel unbearable. The self-awareness I have is a blessing and a curse. The healing journey is no cakewalk either. Like cleaning a room or closet, I feel like it’s always going to get worse before it gets better. From my personal experience, this has proved to be true. The process of healing for me has been incredibly difficult. Full of grief, realizations I didn’t want to have, and so on. I have learned the hard way I need to accept the care of others as I readily offer support for those around me. This challenges me to give myself grace where I’d so often hold judgment for myself.
Where do you find hope?
Debby: I find hope in the way God built change into the world. The daily and seasonal changes, as well as the ways we grow and age, offer me hope because it points to the faithful activity of God working through a living faith; it shows us a possibility beyond what we can see think or imagine in our lives. I find hope in the collaborative ministries of Our Selah and Light for the Darkness, where we are allowed to be ourselves with grace, broken and loved, not only as members but also as leaders.
Keegan: I find hope in the light and love of the gospel and the way God’s grace can be found in trusted nurturing communities, mutual sharing, empathy, and curiosity. Even in the most darkest and painful of places, Yahweh promises to be with us. This is what keeps me looking for hope.
These songs speak to the life and faith I’ve experienced and offer me hope:
For more information on the worshipful support groups that Our Selah offers, email Debby Viveros.
(Responses compiled and edited by Thirza Sayers)
Kinnaman, David. “38% of U.S. Pastors Have Thought About Quitting Full-Time Ministry in the Past Year,” November 16, 2021.
“Barna Group conducted this online survey among 507 Protestant Senior Pastors from October 12-28, 2021. Participants are all members of Barna Group’s Church Panel. Minimal weighting has been used to ensure the sample is representative based on denomination, region, and church size.
“Healthy is defined as scoring “excellent” or “good” on all six of the well-being categories.”