Almost as soon as Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast recently, my thoughts turned to the clergy from the various religious traditions who would not only have to get through the trauma themselves but also would be called upon immediately to help others face what had to be faced.
Like other first responders, clergy pay a high price for the often-tense and demanding work they do. The old joke about working one hour a week for worship is not only wrong, it's insulting.
As The New York Times reported in August 2010, "Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could." The quote is found on this website, completely dedicated to the problem of clergy burnout.
The Religion Newswriters Association's "Religion Link" service recently put together all these resources to aid journalists who want to write about clergy burnout.
I commend it to you. It will give you a pretty good handle on the scope of the problem and what can be done to alleviate it. (The artwork here today is from the Religion Link site.)
If you are among the many people of faith who tend to take clergy for granted and think they have soft jobs, I especially urge you to have a close look at what's offered on the site. Then you might want to go check up on the ordained folks in your life.
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Maybe the astute religion observer Mark Silk has found a bit of good news in his analysis of the way people of different faith traditions voted in the presidential election. It was that Christians who identify themselves as evangelical did not withhold their votes from Mitt Romney because he's a Mormon. Maybe they're getting over their prejudice about Mormonism. That would be progress.
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THE BOOK CORNER
My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, by Colleen Carroll Campbell. The author is a journalist who begins by taking us back to a turning point in her college years, when she discovered that she was empty inside despite doing well in school and being a popular party girl. From there she takes us on a journey to discover what she was missing. She had grown up as a Catholic but that aspect of her life began to mean less and less as she grew to adulthood. And yet it was in Catholic history and tradition that she found how to live as a modern woman. It was by drawing on the lives and inspiration of females whom the Catholic Church had declared to be saints. So as we learn Campbell's story, we learn (more importantly) the stories of Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina of Poland, Edith Stein of Germany, Mothere Teres of Calcutta and Mary of Nazareth. Campbell, who writes for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is a careful crafter of words. And although this book may appeal primarily to women, there's lots here for men, too.