The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Clergy need a vacation, too

282_SurfingPriest04.jpgCan I hear an “Amen!”?

The New York Times looks at some worrisome trends involving people who do the work of the Lord — and need a break:

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.

“We had a pastor in our study group who hadn’t taken a vacation in 18 years,” said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, an assistant professor of health research at Duke University who directs one of the studies. “These people tend to be driven by a sense of a duty to God to answer every call for help from anybody, and they are virtually called upon all the time, 24/7.”


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, Ms. Proeschold-Bell said.

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.”

Read the rest right here.

Meantime, I can report that my vacation begins August 16. We’re going to the Maryland shore.  In two weeks.  Just fourteen days from now.  Not that I’m counting or anything…

Comments read comments(6)
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RP Burke

posted August 2, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Very much at odds, it seems, with the article you blogged on about a week ago claiming that priests need to “put on the black” at all times, whether on or off duty.

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posted August 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm

RP- The article you cited made an exception for vacation time
I believe Canon Law mandates four weeks vacation per year per priest, are you aware of any Canon that applies to deacons, Deacon Greg?

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Fr. Jim

posted August 2, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Deacon Greg,
Surely you’re not going to the “Maryland Shore!” In these parts we go “down the ocean, hon!” Enjoy your vacation!
[LOL! Thanks :-) I’m dreaming of Thrasher’s French Fries and Phillips crab cakes! Dcn. G. ]

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Deacon Norb

posted August 3, 2010 at 5:47 am

To answer Maximus:
That provision in Canon Law — four weeks of vacation a year — also applies to deacons but it is usually only implemented if the deacon is on the payroll of the church. The issue, of course, is that probably less than 5% of all American deacons are so employed. Most who are still in the labor market have vacations pretty much decided by their employer and four weeks usually only goes to the most senior folks.
Some further things to consider:
–Four weeks do not do anyone any good unless they “get-out-of-Dodge.” the most effective clergy (both priests and deacons) are the ones who completely leave the area, shut off their cell-phones and Blackberries and keep their computer time to a minimum.
–I know a Monsignor from Poland (very high in the local hierarchy’s administrative chain-of-command) who takes his vacation by replacing a pastor in England for the four weeks that this English priest/pastor takes his own vacation. It is a marvelous break for my Polish friend — he gets to do the everyday things of a simple pastor and can forget about church politics for a while.
–Once upon a time, but I’m not sure if they still do this, the Catholic parish at the northern gate of Cape Hatteras National Seashore had a sign in front of it which said — in so many words: “Give you pastor a break and a free vacation. Have him contact us. One week free room-and-board in exchange for three week-end masses.”
To Greg: If you get to Assateague, say “Hi” to the wild ponies for our family! My grand-kids go nuts even thinking about that vacation.

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Bali villas

posted August 3, 2010 at 11:29 am

wow that picture were truly attractive

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Portfolio Recovery

posted February 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Nice job. Thanks for the work!

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