Friday, August 27, 2010

Is a Day off the Answer to Clergy Obesity?

Taking time away sure helps, especially if you can give yourself the freedom to do so. That seems to be the upshot of all the reporting of the portly North Carolinian United Methodist pastors. An article in the NY Times mentions several other clergy ailments such as depression and suggests that we find a way to take more sabbath.

While I think taking the time is extremely important, the reporting never really addresses the fact that, because of the nature of the pastoral life, most of our lives are structured in a way that 's inherently unhealthy. Whatever the "written" responsibilities are, the reality of the pastoral life is that we run the church while also being there for people in crisis. The nature of crisis is that it happens whenever it will, 24/7. So clergy are more stressed out than the general population. Do ya think?

I'm not sure clergy health has ever been that great. Let's not use this or any research to romanticize the clergy health of yesteryear. Don't believe the fiction that if clergy were somehow more committed, they would be happier. That somehow more Jesus should take the place of more Prozac. That kind of thinking makes the patient worse, not better. An illness is an illness. In truth the needs of our world and thus our parishes are multiplying at an unbelievable rate, and this certainly has a ripple effect on pastors.

The answer, I believe, is self-awareness and self-discernment. Knowing your limits, as well as your gifts. Receive for yourself what you are offering to others: compassion, understanding, mercy, truth. Of course, you may need to take a day off to get to that place. But, it's not heroic or "sacrificial" or unselfish to live in denial of your health.

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