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August 16th, 2010


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10:22 am - NYT article: lowering burnout among priests
An interesting article popped up in the New York Times not too long ago: "Taking a Break From the Lord's Work". The article talks about a rise in obesity, hypertension, and depression among clergypersons in America, and a lowering of life expectancy. In addition, they apparently have "significantly higher rates of arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma." Mostly, this is attributed to the "growth-ethic" of churches these days (wherein megachurches are the desired outcome) and social media and cell phones. I stumbled across the article when it was referenced on Wikipedia's "Clergy" article (which I stumbled onto trying to find out what a shorter word for "ordained priest" might be).

While we don't have to worry so much about "megachurches" (though Three Cranes is rather large, clocking in at around 50 people who are somehow officially related to the Grove, either as Members or as Friends), the social media aspect is huge with us: demands to be on e-lists, video chats, Facebook, and other net-savvy functions are high. . . so high, in fact, that those who are visible and quick to respond are seen as better at "doing our jobs" than those who aren't, which is a troubling (if understandable) trend. The social aspect of being a priest can really, really wear on folks.

I like the solutions hinted at in the article: yearly retreats (with longer sabbaticals every few years), teaching Priests to say "no" (I've learned that one, for the most part, pretty well), encouraging discipline of any sort (particularly silence, meditation, prayer, vacation days, etc.), and calming the need-for-growth mentality.

Anyway, food for thought.
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(12 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:anivair
Date:August 16th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
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That is really an amazing idea. And it's not just pagan circles. I'm in a few gaming orgs (or have been) and it's the same there. Any sufficiently large group that people can turn into their social circle becomes that.

And I think that having your faith group be a part of your social circle is certainly healthy, but it's important that people understand that there's a life outside that and that being on ADF chat or at their computer 24/7 is not making them any better. It doesn't make you a better pagan, really. (I need to learn that lesson myself from time to time).
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From:chronarchy
Date:August 16th, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC)
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Oh, faith and social interaction certainly must co-exist. They really can't be pulled apart, as religion is clearly a community experience.

But yes, like the gaming group, if you only have friends in the gaming group, then you cannot separate from the gaming group. And it's important (and healthy) to separate from any group for at least some time.

Having more than one social circle is, I think, pretty important. And having others recognize that they're not your only social circle is equally important :)

I've often found myself getting frustrated with being disconnected (for instance, I'd love to spend the entire day on ADF's chat rooms, but I simply can't), but my religious response to being disconnected is less often to get on to the ADF lists or the chats, and more often to go to my altar and light a fire.
[User Picture]
From:rfunk
Date:August 16th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)

Official Friends of the Grove?

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What makes someone an Official Friend of the Grove? How is that different from a Member?
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:August 16th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)

Re: Official Friends of the Grove?

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Well, specifically:

Friends of the Grove don't have any sort of attendance requirement or the ability to vote in Grove elections. They also don't have to be ADF members (but they can be, we just won't pay their dues). Becoming a Friend of the Grove means that you get access to the e-mail list (if desired), and Friends have an open invitation to our Druid Moon rites (though occasionally we'll close a rite to Friends, too, but that's really rare).

We still do the voting thing (because Friends get on the list and see potentially personal information like e-mail addresses and names), and you pay a yearly dues (currently $30).

It's sort of like a "supporting" membership, really.
[User Picture]
From:wishesofastar
Date:August 16th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
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Your earlier posts about a physical discipline regimen seem perfect, particularly for obesity and related health concerns. I know that when I attended church as a kid, physical activity was *not* a priority for the clergy. Also, eating was considered the one "sin" you could get away with (yes, I know that's not a concern for ADF).
[User Picture]
From:wishesofastar
Date:August 16th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
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That should be eating to excess. As far as I know, clergy still need to process food. :)
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From:chronarchy
Date:August 16th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
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Third circle secret: living on sunlight!
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:August 16th, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
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*nods* Physical activity as spiritual discipline can do some of that. It has, after all, lowered my own body fat.

The article tends to tie the higher levels of obesity (I am assuming that they're using a BMI scale, so opinions on how useful the measurement might be are likely related to the use of that index) to stress. Speaking for myself, I think that any discipline that reduces stress (and really, any discipline will, whether it's jogging or praying on a set schedule) is likely to reduce my weight by reducing the amount of food I stress eat :)

I'm trying to think of the last time I was in a jazzed-up disciplinary mood from prayer and meditation and had a sudden craving for Skittles (my current go-to stress candy here at work), and I'm drawing a blank.

But yeah, an active life style will help the average priest achieve a BMI at least as average as the average person, so point well taken. :)
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From:wcm
Date:August 16th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
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I heard about this on NPR a few weeks ago. It was noted that it's experienced across all religions, but the only people calling in were Christians. I kept hoping an ADFer would call. :P I was genuinely curious what any of the ADF priests would have to say about it.
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From:chronarchy
Date:August 16th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)
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Must have missed the story when it ran. Darn!

I think that their point is pretty good, actually. Burnout is easy when you're "always on," and the stress and lifestyle that accompanies that is likely to lead to being sedentary (because you don't feel like you have time to get active), high blood pressure, and depression.

Depression can be particularly problematic: not being visible (or not living up to expectations others have) can cause people to indicate that you're not doing a good job at being clergy, which can make you want to be less visible and to hide from criticism. This leads to reinforcement and acceptance that you're not doing your job, which can just make you feel miserable.

Yeah, I've experienced it. But I've recognized it for what it is, too. And that's led to me being more comfortable with saying, "No," to people and being okay with that decision. It's when you either say "Yes" to everything, or you say "No" and dwell on it that problems arise, I tend to think.

The "Yes to everything until I burn out" is a common problem in the clergy, both mainstream and non-mainstream. I've seen people put their families and "real-world" jobs on hold, often to the detriment of their marriages or careers, because they couldn't say "no" to things, or they felt guilty about the "no's" they got out. Major Christian publications run articles all the time about how important it is for clergy to recognize their limits and say "no" before they cross them.

The chats have been particularly hard, because they fall on nights that many of us have long-standing local plans, or families that need attention, or jobs that we need to be at. We often just can't make it to them, because we have other obligations. But often, it feels like we're ignoring the Folk because we can't attend them, even though we're still spending that time with/on the Folk.

Most recently, I'm seeing some guilt from people who can't attend Isaac's memorial service, as if we'll think less of them because they couldn't travel across the country (or across the Pond, as the case may be) to attend on 1 week's worth of notice. And really, it's okay. But it's hard to accept that it's okay.
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From:wcm
Date:August 17th, 2010 04:34 am (UTC)
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I can imagine it being hard. And don't feel bad about the chats. I would love to make more too, but meat world beckons... lol
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From:chronarchy
Date:August 17th, 2010 02:55 pm (UTC)
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Indeed. Stupid meat world :)

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