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Love your leader

Jenny Mayo tells of the debilitating effect of ministry burnout and the need to allow ministers a sensible work-life balance

Love your leader ISTOCK

WHILE WORKING AS A LAY PARISH ASSISTANT in the Chester Diocese, I had my first encounter with the reality of clergy burnout. My incumbent, Rob and I were conducting our monthly supervision session at the local pub; while we were being seated, he spotted a colleague and his wife nearby. Although I had been attending deanery meetings, I could not remember meeting this particular member of staff. His demeanour and posture were so striking that, although this happened over 20 years ago, I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. He was bent double over his food, with a pained expression; he didn’t speak or make eye contact with Rob or even his own wife throughout the conversation. He looked like a broken man carrying a heavy burden. His wife blushed bright red with discomfort and brought the conversation to a swift close. When Rob returned to our table, he told me about how this colleague had to step down from his role as full-time vicar of a busy town centre church because of severe mental health break down. “He burnt out”, Rob told me. “The job destroyed him.”

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