Vacation’s all I ever wanted

The Roanoke Times points out that even pastors sometimes have to just get away. They interviewed about two dozen local clergy members from various denominations and came away reporting just how difficult it is for many of them to take that time off. The Rev. Barkley Thompson of St. John’s Episcopal in Roanoke, Va., was one of those priests—trying to get out the door for his vacation even as he was being interviewed, Book of Common Prayer in hand as his family loaded up for the trip.

From the article:

Even pastors need to get away from it all. Tending flocks can be exhausting, and at least 17 percent of God’s shepherds in the United States suffer from stress or burnout, according to an estimate by the Alban Institute, an ecumenical group in Washington, D.C.

The job of pastoring congregations in Roanoke and elsewhere is a pressure cooker: preparing fresh sermons, consoling the sick, counseling the troubled, fundraising and navigating through turbulent church political waters.

“Most pastors I know work six days a week. Sometimes the work of ministry even carries over to that seventh day,” said the Rev. Mark Graham, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Southwest Roanoke County. “So vacation time is vital for rest and refreshment.”

Still, the need of pastors for downtime isn’t always taken seriously. A religious humor Web site, HaLife, features a list of “Signs Your Preacher Needs a Vacation.” One indicator mentioned: The pastor sermonizes about Jonah being swallowed by a whale, and the theme is: “A change of scenery does a body good.”

But getting away from the congregation can be tough, according to interviews with nearly two dozen Roanoke-area preachers of various denominations. Most said they don’t take all the time off to which they’re entitled because they’re just too busy.

Even when they’re on vacation, some said disconnecting is difficult because of their responsibilities. That’s because they continue to be on call for emergencies such as the death of a member, which may abruptly end a holiday.

“As long as you’ve got a phone, you’re working,” said the Rev. John Ott, pastor of Parkway Wesleyan Church in Northeast Roanoke County. Although his church has several assistant pastors, and they try to arrange vacation time so that at least one is always on duty, some callers insist on reaching the senior minister, wherever he is.

Read it all here.

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