Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Article on Clergy Self-Care and Time Management

Here is an interesting article I found on clergy self-care. It is worth a read...The Archer
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WHAT should be the length of your vicar’s working week? For those who somewhat bizarrely believe that clergy only work on Sundays this may seem an odd question.
But I am all too well aware that many clergy are working 70-80 hour weeks and believe there should be no limit to their availability. I know some clergy who never take holidays, are not happy about leaving their church to other priests’ care. And I know some clergy families who feel they always come second to the job and suffer as a result.
The nature of clergy employment is going to change radically over the next few years. The old practice of clergy having a freehold office, which means they are only accountable to themselves, will go.
In its place will come something nearer to most people’s experience of employment relationships: job descriptions, annual appraisals, disciplinary procedures and possibly adherence to the European Working Time Directive.
The working week under this Directive is currently limited to 48 hours without the consent of the employee but this sort of approach is not familiar territory for most clergy.
Rather, the job is seen as a vocation - a way of life that responds to people’s needs in crisis. It is part of the joy of ordained ministry to know that you’re wanted at the important moments in people’s lives. Living on the job is something that few of us would want to surrender. “I’m not on duty” goes against the grain for most of us. But I know that clergy lose their one day off in the week to do the unanticipated funeral or hospital visit.
But we just can’t go on like this. The clergy are being asked to take on more. The number of church buildings, PCCs, schools, parish projects, evangelism initiatives and community demands that each priest has responsibility for is increasing inexorably with the decline in the number of clergy. And they are the potential casualties. In most cases I believe clergy are working too hard and have not got the life/work balance right. Burnout happens and is often hidden. The parish priest is just not supposed to be depressed or worn out.
Clergy marriages are not supposed to break down or go through choppy waters. Clergy children shouldn’t make demands on their parents that take them away from the parish - the excuse that ‘I need to put my child to bed tonight’ doesn’t seem convincing. I know this struggle is there for many in secular employment too.
But there has to be a fundamental change. This subject needs debating by clergy and laity alike. It needs a national debate so that those beyond the church know that there is a problem. We want to avoid the other extreme, where people perceive that ‘the vicar’s always busy so I won’t bother troubling him or her’. We love the job and spend too much time on it because part of us never wants to stop; we can never do enough.
Bishops and archdeacons need to look at this too, including me. A 48-hour week would be a start in slowing down, but I’m somehow uncomfortable about it all. Yet I know something has got to change and we all need help with the process.
–The Rt Revd Stephen Lowe is Bishop of Hulme; this is his column in Crux, the regular publication of the diocese of Manchester
Update: A related Telegraph editorial is here.

1 comment:

Susie said...

that is a good article. In my diocese, we tend to talk about it as "expected work hours" - knowing that emergencies will always come up. But, in my view, taking your day off is *part* of pastoral care. If we have worked for two, three or six weeks straight with no break, what shape will we be in when our pastoral presence is really truly needed?