From THE NEW YORK TIMES:
The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.
Public health experts who have led the studies caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy. But while research continues, a growing number of health care experts and religious leaders have settled on one simple remedy that has long been a touchy subject with many clerics: taking more time off.
As cellphones and social media expose the clergy to new dimensions of stress, and as health care costs soar, some of the country’s largest religious denominations have begun wellness campaigns that preach the virtues of getting away. It has been described by some health experts as a sort of slow-food movement for the clerical soul. In the United Methodist Church in recent months, some church administrators have been contacting ministers known to skip vacation to make sure they have scheduled their time.
The church, the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination, led the way with a 2006 directive that strongly urged ministers to take all the vacation they were entitled to — a practice then almost unheard of in some busy congregations.
“Time away can bring renewal,” the directive said, “and help prevent burnout.”
COMMENT: Of course, clergy should take regular vacations and, no doubt, doing so brings refreshment. However, such reinvigoration will not last long as the real problem is the amount of time clergy spend working each and every week that they are not on vacation.
In the Church of England the clergy are expected to work for 60 hours a week over 6 days. But most conscientious clergy will put in far more hours. For this they are paid about £23000 ($36000). Employed persons, in other occupations, would expect to work no more than between 35 and 40 hours a week for such a wage and, importantly, this would be over a 5 day week, giving them 2 full days off to recuperate and give time to their own concerns. Clergy have to shop, paint the spare room and take their kids to football practice like everyone else. Cramming such mundane things into just one day off a week leaves you permanently knackered and the lack of time available to spend with ones partner can lead to all sorts of relationship stress.
Basically, nobody else would accept such working conditions. Such long hours for such low wages have been regarded as unjust in England for well over 50 years.
Most congregations in England are made up of people who work between 35 and 40 hours a week, or who have retired from such jobs. Most congregation members, still at work, would strike if their employers insisted on paying them £23000 for a compulsory 60+ hours a week (with no overtime payments). Yet these people are the ones who sit on the PCCs and vestries of their churches and complain if the vicar takes the odd hour off to take his kids to school or similar. They are also the ones who donate a pittance each week to the church collection which is one of the main reasons clergy work conditions are so poor.
At almost every interview I have attended in my search for another post I have been grilled about how much time I spend on my blog. The answer is about 3 hours a day. When I am working I tend to spend about an hour on it before morning prayer and then more time in the evening and late at night (I'm not one for watching much TV and I don't have any other hobbies). In any other line of work you would not expect to be interrogated about the amount of time you spend on your hobbies during your own spare time.
The truth is that congregations do not allow their clergy any spare time. They expect them to devote every spare moment of their waking lives to them and assume the right to wake them up if they are sleeping. Of course, there are other occupations where this is also true to some extent, certain parts of the medical profession for example. But such jobs tend to be financially rewarded at a far higher level than clergy pay and usually last for a relatively short amount of time during the person's career.
Although clergy in the Church of England have always been poorly paid (at times, in the past, far more poorly paid than they are today), previously their ministry was not viewed by the congregations as a job, but as a way of life. Clergy would work their own land, study, pursue other interests, do academic work alongside their parish commitments, and in a relaxed manner. Unfortunately, the people of the church have now bought into the capitalist ethic and see their clergy as their employees whilst at the same time not buying into the fair wage for a fair day's work ethic. In this they are like the unenlightened mill owners of the early industrial revolution or Nike today.
Unless clergy hours are reduced to no more than 8 a day and their working week reduced to 5 days, clergy working in modern, Western, capitalist countries will continue to burn out, no matter if they take regular holidays or not. At the moment most congregations are killing their clergy and they don't appear to give a damn about that.
Thanks to Skittles for bringing the
NY Times article to my attention.