Days Off… It’s a Calling, not a Job

Recently the Bishop of Peterborough wrote an Ad Clerum about this issue of clergy time off, he says:

In a number of dioceses, bishops have started instructing clergy to take two consecutive days off once a month, as well as a full day off in the other weeks. This is in addition to the normal annual leave allowance. I have been asked if I intend to do the same. My answer may seem a strange one, and I’m very happy to discuss or explain it, but it represents a firmly held position.

I have no intention of telling clergy how many days off to take, or how to configure their days off or their annual leave. To do so would make me a manager, and would make the clergy employees. During my 26 years in parish ministry, and now 17 as archdeacon or bishop, I have rejoiced in the freedom we have to organise our own lives: to have lunch at home sometimes, to share in children’s bedtime or the school run or see children in a school play during the daytime, to go out for a walk or to the cinema or read a novel on a “working” day when I feel the need to do that. I have never counted my working hours in a week, or even my days of leave per year, and I have never felt the need to do so. I know that I work hard at my ministerial calling. I delight in our strange and somewhat unusual status, as neither employed nor self-employed, but “office holders”. I am perplexed and a little saddened when parish clergy want to be employed and line managed, or see their calling as in some way analogous to a job. To the parish clergy I would say, Give yourself wholly and joyfully to the various callings, responsibilities and privileges the Lord has laid on you; Look after yourself as well as others, taking the time you need for refreshment, recreation, and rest; Work hard, pray hard, love well, care for those in your charge including yourself.

I do love this, it feels very liberating and I think it reflects the spirit of the role. Also, clergy are not the sort that need to be checked up on – they work hard because of their love of God and of the church. However… it is also confusing in a way. Common Tenure Terms of Service state that clergy are entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of not less than 24 hours in any period of seven days, and to thirty six days annual leave or such greater amount as may be specified in the statement of particulars (emphasis mine). Then the Dioceses all seem to put in the Statement of Particulars (SOP, a sort of employment contract for clergy) the minimum ie that we will have 24 hours rest period in seven days and 36 days leave. An example SOP is given here. The Peterborough curate’s handbook states:

Diocesan guidelines [state that for] full time clergy [the entitlement] is one day off each week and 36 days holiday (plus secular bank holidays) and not fewer than 5 Sundays off each year.

It seems to me that we are perhaps falling between two stools – most employees work a five day week and that allows them the opportunity to recover. Ministry is demanding and if we were employed I’m sure a five day week would be deemed appropriate. Office holders are responsible for their own self care and are not line managed, they should work as many days as they feel is appropriate and ensure they have enough rest. It seems to me we are caught between these two, which is perhaps why the Bishop of Peter borough’s clergy are asking for help in resolving this by being granted more rest days than are stipulated in their Statements of Particulars. Still, if I was in Peterborough Diocese I would pay more attention to the Ad Clerum than to the SOP – much more life giving

5 thoughts on “Days Off… It’s a Calling, not a Job”

  1. Clergy are the representatives of God. It is a calling….it’s not a job. They are on duty 24/7/52. But because of the amount of stress in this world today they need time away from the world. At times they need solitude..times when they don’t need to give advice to others..times when they don’t need to talk. There should be respite homes where they can go for this solitude when they need it. It’s very sad that a Bishop classes it as a Job. He has obviously taken the wrong path at some stage !!

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  2. It is also the responsibility of Church members to be aware of how much time their minister puts in. I speak from the point of view of a URC Elder (currently not serving) who still feels a sense of guilt (even 40 years later) after our minister suffered a major heart attack from which he subsequently died. We (as an Elders Meeting) were simply not aware of how much he doing outside of our churches. He greatly overdid it. Since, I have tried to keep an eye on the minister of whatever Church I happened to be involved with and to quietly speak to them if they are overdoing it. Ministry is rarely simple and it is not a job to which you can apply fixed limits. It’s not unique to ministers – doctors and all manner of other professional people are also guilty of it. My own record working week was 147 hours.

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