Episcopal church leader suggests priests, lay employees take 'mini-sabbaticals' amid ongoing pandemic

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- An Episcopal church leader in Chicago is suggesting priests and lay employees take a mini-sabbatical from the stresses and strains of leading a church during the pandemic.

It was two years ago Thursday that COVID-19 was detected in the United States, and Assisting Bishop Chilton Knudsen, of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, said the pandemic has taken its toll on those who work in churches.

She has suggested that all of them, at one time or another in the coming months, take a one-week total break even from Sunday services, if they wish.

“People were talking to me in language about, ‘I am tapped out. I don’t know what else I have to give. I believe I’m at the edge of my rope,’” she said.

“The idea really came from my pastoral listening to the exhaustion, the depression, the sadness, the anxiety that has been accumulating over these last two plus years of the pandemic.”

The bishop said that when particular churches are taking their sabbaticals, their congregations can go to other churches or sample services at other Episcopal churches that livestream.

Bishop Knudsen said churches were receptive to her suggestion.

“One priest called me up to say, ‘I mentioned this to my staff and they broke down in tears,'" she said.

Bishop Knudsen said even priests who didn’t feel they could take the break said they appreciated the diocese sensitivity to the stress they were feeling.

“I encouraged them to do whatever rest would look like to them," she said.

The mini-sabbaticals would be with pay and would not count against any vacation time.