Many UK clergy facing 'burnout' -15/02/06
As churches feel the fallout of post-Christendom, a bishop has said that many vicars are risking burnout. The Bishop of Hulme, the Right Rev Stephen Lowe has said that clergy are working too many hours and has called for a national debate on what parishioners can realistically expect. It comes as the church faces financial pressures and fewer clergy, whilst simultaneously trying to maintain a parish system which covers the whole country.
The bishop said in his diocesan magazine, 'Crux', that many vicars work 70 to 80 hours a week and routinely put their ministry ahead of their families or their own health. Many believe that there should be no limit to their availability and should never take holidays because they are unhappy about leaving the pastoral care of their flock in the hands of a stranger. But over the next few years the nature of clergy employment will change radically as vicars lose their ancient right to freehold office, facing retirement at 65, and their working conditions more closely follow those of ordinary workers.
The bishop urged other bishops and archbishops to begin the debate by looking at the possibility of a 48-hour week, the maximum under the European law, which he said would at least be a “start in slowing down”. "The job is seen as a vocation - a way of life that responds to people's needs in crisis. It is part of the joy of ordained ministry to know that you're wanted at the important moments in people's lives," he said. "But we just can't go on like this. The number of church buildings, PCCs, schools, parish projects, evangelism initiatives and community demands that each priest has responsibility for are increasing inexorably with the decline in the number of clergy."