Do clergy need help to take more time off?

Simon Cutmore wrote this on his blog:

My [Training Incumbent] was very clear that I needed to take my allotted rest day and if I didn’t he would come down on me like a tonne of bricks – not quite his turn of phrase but basically what I heard! Over the years, whilst I am not convinced that I have always taken all of my allotted leave, I have been fastidious about my rest day. The opportunity to take Sabbath, to stop, to do something renewing for me and of me has been key. It was made clear that as a then single person, that I should not be doing my laundry and cleaning on my day off as keeping myself and the house was part of normal life and ministry. This, therefore, allowed my rest day to be just that.

I think this is a really good practice – I recognise that I have generally saved personal things for my day off – like ringing up the dentist or the hairdresser or sorting out something that has gone wrong with a statement. I haven’t properly understood the idea of sabbath, I must amend this!

Many dioceses (like Oxford) recommend that you take
– the evening off before the day off,
– also once a month we take two consecutive days off and
– an extra day off a month as a quiet day,
– and an annual retreat.
I was interested if this was a standard practise, so I’ve asked these questions in a quick survey, and below are the answers:

Question: Do you take all your days off?
Question: Do you take the evening before your day off?
Do you take other time away from ministry (extra days off, quiet day)?
Do you take an annual retreat?

So 67% of the 119 clergy who answered my survey usually or always take all their days off, 26% usually or always take the evening before, 14% regularly take other days, eg quiet days, and 43% usually or always take a retreat. Perhaps the evening before and the quiet days are less frequently taken because only some dioceses recommend them, or perhaps it is because of workloads precluding them… Do we need our bishops to tell us to take more time off to save us from ourselves? The reason I ask this is twofold…

Firstly, I was talking to a Diocesan Counsellor who said that if clergy are so exhausted on their day off that they lie in bed most of it and just manage to drag themselves downstairs to make some food then that is a problem, they are headed for burnout, they need to be able to do something creative and life giving on their day off. As she was speaking I was thinking that very many of my days off have been exactly like this! Secondly, I asked this question on the survey:

Question: I have enough time off to feel refreshed

So 48% of us never or rarely have enough time off to feel refreshed. I find that pretty scary. I’m going to rename my day off ‘sabbath’ and try to do more life-giving things with it, as Simon dictates above… If I can get out of bed!

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