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January 6, 2022
The Feast of the Epiphany

Dear People of the Diocese of Chicago, 

News media have recently carried a number of stories about clergy of all backgrounds leaving active ministry, or taking early retirement.  The data show that church workers—clergy and lay—and their families are exhausted, anxious and stressed. I salute those who are accessing mental health services in record numbers, but not every location offers handy access to needed services. And waiting lists are often daunting, as providers cope with heavy caseloads.  The concern about Bishop-elect Paula’s health and progress has also been a unique additional burden in our diocesan life.

I am deeply concerned for our clergy and church workers. I am concerned for the entire human community in their suffering in this pandemic, but clergy and church workers are the special responsibility of a Bishop. I take that responsibility seriously. I am asking our diocesan community to come together in loving support of our clergy (both deacons and priests) and church workers through what I am calling the “Mini-Sabbatical” program.

This program begins as each congregation/ministry setting identifies a work-week in the first quarter of 2022 when meetings, office hours and non-essential activities are cancelled. Of course, pastoral emergencies will be attended to. The Mini-Sabbatical work-week is chosen entirely at the discretion of each ministry setting. If it is not possible to find a week in the first quarter, strive to find a week within the second quarter. 

The Mini-Sabbatical does not count against vacation time, sick time or continuing education time. Pay and benefits continue. Other dioceses and other religious bodies are doing this kind of thing.  It is a strong diocese indeed which chooses to actively support its clergy and church workers through a plan like this. I have discussed this program with our deans, our diocesan staff and our Standing Committee, all of whom have been favorable. Our deans will be following up in their regions to offer help and support.

Although it is not my intention to require cancellation of Sunday services, I encourage you to consider doing so, and you will have my full support if you choose this option. This might be a moment to introduce your people to the superb virtual worship services of our National Cathedral as an alternative. This might also be an opportunity for any congregation(s) which will offer Sunday worship to offer hospitality to the deanery so that deanery bonding is enhanced.

This is a voluntary program; I am asking, not requiring. But my ask is heartfelt, motivated by my deep concern for the well-being of our clergy and church workers. I am confident that our love for them will move us to implement this plan. We will provide, through our web site, an opportunity for each congregation to let us know when your Mini-Sabbatical will take place, so we can make special prayer intention for you and your clergy/church workers as they take this small break before Holy Week and Easter. 

I welcome questions about this plan. Many congregations have special circumstances which call for creativity in applying this plan. Don’t hesitate to be in touch. Thank you for your consideration. Blessings to you all as the New Year begins. 

With my love and prayers,

+Chilton

 

The Rt. Rev. Chilton R Knudsen
Assisting Bishop of Chicago
bishop@episcopalchicago.org
312-751-4217