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Clergy are people, face stress

Clergy are people, face stress

The AP recently reported Stresses multiply for many US clergy: ‘We need help too’. Read it all here.

Episcopal Bishop Chilton Knudsen is quoted at length:

Episcopal Bishop Chilton Knudsen, from the vantage of a nearly 40-year career, cites several factors affecting the clergy’s morale — including sex-abuse scandals that have rocked several Protestant denominations as well as the Catholic church.

“As the scandals became public, the public trust of clergy has dropped a little notch with each revelation,” said Knudsen, 73. “Even if you never had a scandal, there’s still a taint by association.”

“At the same time, the clergy has more complicated situations come across their doorstep,” she said. “There’s a wearing-down effect… they’re thinking, ‘I’ve spent all these hours with people trying to do good things, and I’m just getting nowhere.’”

Another challenge, she said, is the willingness of some churchgoers to engage in “clergy bashing.”

“Sometimes your congregation is polarized — a group who wants you gone and believes another priest will be so much better, and a group who are supportive,” she said. “People are acting out, circulating rumors about you in email chains — it’s traumatic.”

Knudsen and Nancy Van Dyke Platt are the authors of So You Think You Don’t Know One? Addiction and Recovery in Clergy and Congregations (2010).

Unpacking a common, but rarely addressed problem—from the theological dimensions of codependency to treatment of the minister and congregation—clergy experts Platt and Knudsen cite real-life experiences with clergy addiction and congregations in crisis in this ecumenical approach to recovery.

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Eric Bonetti
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Eric Bonetti

I’m not terribly sympathetic. Every study I have seen suggests clergy have more free time than almost any other profession, yet they report the least free time.

As to +Knudsen herself, I have dealt with her personallly....I will leave it at that.

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Simon Burris
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Simon Burris

Once I was at a vestry retreat and sitting on the patio with the three clergy of my parish just chatting after a day of sessions. I had had a drink or two, and had myself a little self-pity party, saying something like,

"I work every day trying to communicate to people--my students--the beauty of [my academic subject] and how it can enrich their lives; and they nod and smile and find ways to do just enough not to fail. Very discouraging when it's not just a job, but a calling. Wears you down."

All three clergy basically told me, "Welcome to the club."

Until that moment, I had never considered that aspect of their professional lives.

Question: How should we talk about this "wears you down" when discussing possible calls to priesthood with young people?

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