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Jobless clergy seek the right fit

Jobless clergy seek the right fit

Columbus Dispatch writer Meredith Heagney has filed a story about the impact of the current economic climate on pastors.

In a difficult job market, out-of-work pastors face even more challenges. In the United States, nearly 608,000 men and women are ordained clergy, according to the National Council of Churches. A little more than 372,000 serve parishes.

That doesn’t mean 236,000 pastors are unemployed, as their services are often utilized in religious schools, hospitals, prisons and many other settings. But some of them … are on the hunt.

The jobs are out there, but they’re not always the most appealing, said the Rev. Jackson W. Carroll, an emeritus professor of sociology at Duke Divinity School who has long studied the clergy job market.

Heagney writes that joblessness in “hierarchical” religious institutions like The Episcopal Church is easier to cope with since “pastors serve at the direction of the bishop or another administrator. Basically, you go where he places you.”

Ah, now there’s a dangerous presumption. Monolithic “hierarchy,” with all its labor-saving devices, can still amount to places and processes where no one really wants to learn how the sausage gets made, or how long it can take for placements to occur.

And then of course: compensation, letters of call, preaching styles, worship preferences, conceptions of leadership, and the amorphous “Is this person a good fit?” “Easier,” my eye.

Still, I’d rather live within a system that’s trying than without one at all.

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Andrew Downs

As one who was looking for nearly all of 2011, this is one unexamined part of our life. The problem of being the assistant who is let go due to financial hardship in a diocese in which 3 or 4 such positions simply disappeared in the last year just doesn't register with the congregation. Nor does the fact that we can't find a new place in a matter of weeks or that the new place will be able to support my wife quitting her job or the cross-country move with two small children. This last year has been challenging and lonely. But the bright side is that we have a new home which we will be moving to in just a few weeks!

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