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Gimme a Break

Monday, 2 August 2010

Did you happen to catch the article about clergy burnout in today’s Times?

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.

I’m discouraged just reading this.

The article goes on to describe how the commitment folks of the cloth feel towards their congregations and their calling often prevents them from caring for themselves.

I can relate. I am not good at carving out “me” time. I know that having young children makes it even more difficult to seek spiritual restoration.

The Catholics have the right idea. According to the article, Catholic canon law requires its priests to take a four week vacation in addition to a month devoted to a spiritual retreat. Of course, those guys don’t have to juggle familial logistics.

I am one of the guilty ones. I rarely use all of my vacation time and when I do take vacation days, it is typically to be with the kids during one of their breaks during the school year. Not exactly relaxing. Nor do I take all of my time at once. The shul doesn’t want both rabbis away at the same time so, with just a few special (and SHORT) exceptions, we stagger our time.

I don’t see this changing any time in the near future, though I do think that reexamining the expectations we have of our rabbis might have positive benefits for both a congregation and a rabbi.

Reverend Peter Scazerro, who was quoted in the article, has put together a set of guidelines for the pastoral team members of his church. As one might expect, it is written from a deeply Christian perspective. Some of the language sounds unfamiliar. But there is much that can and ought to be adapted for the rabbinic community.

With Elul just around the corner, it’s time for New Year’s “resolutions.” I’m thinking these Rev. Scazerro’s guidelines might come in handy as I imagine a better version of me in 5771.

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