Monday, May 25, 2015
Everyone loves a holiday weekend--even me, despite the lower attendance at church. I prefer a huge liturgical celebration like Easter or All Saints', but I do love being able to spend Monday with my family. It's restorative. It's fun. It's...normal. Still, though, something is missing.
Take a moment and consider all the three-day weekends that "normal" people get to experience: Memorial Day, Labor Day, MLK, Jr., Day. Also, remember that when a fixed holidays falls on a Saturday or Sunday it is transferred to a Friday or Monday, making for a three-day weekend. For some, thanksgiving is a bonus four-day weekend if Friday is also granted off or taken as a vacation day. There's something magical about three days in a row away from the office. You know that feeling of waking up on Saturday and realizing you have yet another day to recover and relax? Sometimes three-day weekends seem to stretch on forever.
When school is out for a Friday or a Monday (or sometimes even both!), parents can head out of town and make the four or five hour drive to a destination not worth reaching with only a two-night break from the grind. New possibilities arise not only on the road but also at home. Lingering projects are tackled and accomplished with time to spare. There is no substitute for the perspective that is gained when one has three uninterrupted days away.
But what about people who work on Sunday--not just some Sundays but every Sunday? What happens to their three-day weekends? What happens to their families? When do they get to go out of town?
As someone who works in the church and has Sunday-morning responsibilities, I don't get three-day weekends very often. In fact, unless I'm on vacation (a different thing entirely), I only get one a year--Thanksgiving (or the rare time when a fixed holiday falls on a Thursday--like New Years' 2015). That isn't just true for clergy like me. It's true for youth directors and children's ministers. It's true for nursery workers and sextons and organists and choir directors. And, yes, I know that there are lots of other jobs that require weekend work. I'm grateful to doctors and nurses and police personnel and air traffic controllers and all the other jobs that are needed seven days a week, but most if not all of them--help me know the exceptions--get to spread their weekend work around. People who work for the church, however, work every...single...Sunday.
Don't get me wrong: I love my job. I wouldn't trade it for anything. My family appreciates it, too. There are unique benefits to being a clergy family, and we try to take advantage of all of them. We have the love and support of a congregation and a diocese. We have colleagues and friends all over the country. I probably could have pursued any number of satisfying, lucrative, fulfilling careers that are full of three-day weekends, but I didn't, and I wouldn't want to. I get plenty of time off. Our congregation encourages me to spend more time at home with my family. I love my job--even when I have to explain to my family that we need to head back into town on Saturday night because I have to work the next day.
Think of ways you can support your church-worker and her or his family. If you're a teacher, you can help their kids cover their assignments when they take an "unexcused" absence on a Thursday so their family can go out of town. If you're a member of a vestry, you can encourage your clergyperson to take a Thursday off once a quarter. Support your clergyperson's sabbatical by budgeting for supply coverage and accumulating enough funds to grant three months of study-leave every seven years. And always keep in mind that for some of us Sundays are work days.