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Asking the clergy about taking vacations


Can religious leaders take vacations or a hiatus from their duties?




Father Damian Halligan, Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius Jesuit Retreat House: Manhasset:

I've always struggled about taking a vacation, or even a day off. I used to have a mental "joy bank" where I'd "postpone the joy" and put it in that bank until I felt I'd done enough to have earned a day off.

It is not only clergy but lay people, too, who don't feel they can take time off. In my mind, I know the best thing is to get away from the job to refresh your mind and spirit. You get so many good thoughts on vacations.

After all, God rested on the seventh day, so it is built in that we rest. Of course, as clergy, we're working on the Sabbath. But, you do have to take your own Sabbath. We're human. As a clergy, you're not good to anyone else if you're too tired to be fully present for the other person. I once was ministering to a quadriplegic, and she said to me, "You look worse than I do. Go home and get some rest."

Even when you're on that sabbatical, you're not taking a sabbatical from God.


Rabbi Emeritus Daniel Fogel, North Shore Synagogue, Syosset:

I've been a rabbi since 1960, all on Long Island, in Roslyn for six years, then in Syosset.

My calling was not so much from God, but from a wish to support the Jewish community. There was an element of searching for a connection to people and to my faith. I found it through being more sensitive to the world around me and to my needs as part of that world. I realize now that was the calling from God, though I didn't understand it at the time.

To restore the balance in my life, I need the time away, maybe a vacation or just a day off.


Kadampa Buddhist Nun Kelsang Gewang, New Kadampa Tradition at Dipamkara Meditation Center, Huntington:

In one way, my practice as a Buddhist nun transforms as to what is needed. At times, I'm a teacher, at other times I serve other functions.

If you interpret the time off as a vacation, even in the world, I'm practicing my faith. I take my ordination vows each morning. There is no vacation from my practice of my faith. As for my duties and becoming enlightened, I'm always teaching and guiding people. So, there is no vacation in your heart from your duties, responsibilities and faith. There are clergy who go on retreats and separate themselves from the world. That is designed to make them better able to help others. When I go on vacation to visit my family in California, I don't go live in a cave. I'm still among people.

No matter where I go or what I do, I'm still that nun. In the past, nuns and monks were separated from the world, but what makes Kadampa Buddhism so great is that we are integrated into the world.

The Rev. Thomas LaMothe, First Baptist Church of Greenport:

As for vacations, my answer is yes, although I confess to never using all of mine. But, of course, I could no more stop being concerned about my congregation than I could about my own family. With regard to a hiatus, I don't know. If by that you mean a sabbatical of some sort, I should think the answer would be yes, certainly.

In between my first and second pastoral positions, many years ago, I spent a year working as a Child Protective Services caseworker. Throughout that time, however, I regularly preached in area churches as needed. So was it, or wasn't it, a hiatus from ministry? My own belief -- and experience -- is that one who is truly called to serve in this way ultimately cannot help but do so, regardless of the particular circumstances. And, indeed, how could it be otherwise? Often people I meet will, upon learning what I am, immediately begin to ask me spiritual questions or tell me their troubles. Should I then say that it's my day off, or my vacation, and pass on the opportunity to perhaps be a means of grace to that person? I couldn't, and don't.

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