In religious groups across the country, clergy members are stepping down from the pulpit, The Wall Street Jounal reported, as the job has become even more demanding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pastoral burnout has been high during two years of fights about masks and vaccine mandates, political polarization, and Zoom fatigue, The Washington Post reported.
An October study from the Barna Group, which studies faith in the U.S., revealed that 38% of pastors were seriously considering leaving full-time ministry, up from 29% in January 2021. Among those under age 45, nearly half were considering quitting, according to The Journal.
In some denominations, clergy shortages began before the pandemic as the country has grown more secular.
Among Conservative Jewish synagogues, at least 80 of the movement’s roughly 600 synagogues will be searching for a new rabbi this year. In the Reform Jewish movement, the country's largest Jewish denomination, there are 5% to 10% more congregations looking for a rabbi than in a normal year, according to leaders, The Journal reported.
About 3,544 Catholic parishes in the U.S. don't have a parish priest, up 25% from in 2000, according to Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., recently launched a pilot program in which as many as six parishes share one priest, The Washington Post reported.
Matthew Manion, director of the Center for Church Management at Villanova University, said "stress levels are through the roof." Diocesan leaders say there is an increase in requests for emotional and mental support to deal with the pandemic, racial awakening, and political polarization, he said, according to The Washington Post.
"Clergy are meant to be there for all their people — so if their people are having more challenges, more stress — and what's made it particularly challenging is they can't be together in their normal ways of being together. Spiritual counseling and being present for people is very, very difficult," he said.
At some congregations around the country, laypeople lead services when there is no pastor, The Wall Street Journal reported.
At Mosaic Law Congregation, a conservative Jewish synagogue in Sacramento, California, a retired rabbi led services on Zoom from Montreal for months, and congregants filled in for events such as funerals and bar mitzvahs.
The congregation has hired a full-time rabbi who starts this year, but Executive Director Caren Rubin said she has warned members that they can't expect him to remain another quarter-century, The Journal reported.
"It's like corporate culture," Rubin said. "People don't stay."
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