The Clergy Health Initiative is Creating a Sustainable Change
I am always amazed with the stories when I start working on a new project. There are so many stories all over. I am not sure if you have taken the time to visit Duke University’s campus, but it is absolutely beautiful. But in the heart of the campus is the chapel. “A magnificent Gothic sanctuary with a landmark tower located at the most prominent point on an impressive university campus.” It reminded me of touring Europe and some of the beautiful chapels in Rome and France. But what makes this trip so special is the story of Clergy Health.
The Duke Endowment states, “Studies indicate that clergy are among the nation’s most overworked people, and that the long hours and constant stress of the job weigh on their health and lead to many pastors failing to take care of themselves. Another factor: The average age of clergy is rising, which brings with it more health issues.”
We met with Robin Swift who is with the Duke Divinity’s School Clergy Health Initiative, and she talked on camera about the overall importance of this initiative and the broadening effects.
Bottomline, “The Duke Endowment has awarded $12 million for the creation of a Clergy Health Initiative administered by Duke Divinity School and focusing on helping United Methodist ministers in North Carolina tend to their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.” That is a huge investment for the Duke Endowment, not only in financial resources, but in the foresight to see and understand the need for health initiatives to better serve future congregations and their clergy.
New York Times wrote an article in August, 2010 talking about this very issue of Clergy Health, specifically in the New York Region. “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.”
Robin Swift said during our conversation that it is a challenge for ministers given their “job description.” Many travel, go into congregations’ homes, sometimes offered un-healthy dinner options, and little time to exercise. Also, the United Methodist Church require clergy to constantly move, changing churches between every 7 years and sometimes every 2 years. As they serve their flock, it is harder and harder to pay attention to their own health, because they are trained to put their congregations first.
The Duke Divinity School is researching this issue and working with Clergy to find better ways to create a healthy lifestyle. The one thing that really stood out to me, this initiative is not just telling Clergy what they think they need to do; they are spending more time asking how they can help. Listening is a major part of this initiative, searching for ways to help each Clergy and meet the needs where they exist.
Over the next month or so, I will be working with the Duke Endowment to tell the stories of the Clergy Health Initiative and how it is helping create change in the lives of the Clergy in North Carolina.
These are the type of impactful stories I like to tell, stories that are creating change in lives of people around us!
To learn more about the Clergy Health Initiative, here are some links below: