I was 24 years old. It was the weekend before I started as the Student Pastor in my seminary field education congregation. I was sitting in a Greek restaurant outside Boston with a friend blissfully consuming my spinach & feta omelet and the Sunday New York Times when it hit me: this is the last weekend of my life when I will not have Professional Church Responsibilities, required by either my seminary or my future congregation. Honestly this stark realization almost knocked the wind out of me.
So here I am 35 years later and I still miss weekends. Sure, there have been vacations, study leave, a sabbatical, sick days, and several months between positions. But I have worked most weekends for a long time.
Yes, there are many professions that require weekend work from fry cooks to brain surgeons. And there are the jokes about pastors working only an hour a week and it happens to be Sundays.
But the unrelenting weekend work of pastors is unlike other work. Even as a Middle Judicatory Staffer (a description of ministry which makes me sound like someone you would never invite to a party) I work weekends. The wonderful thing is that I can control this in a way that a parish pastor cannot.
I’m coming off of a four-church weekend if you count an all day Presbytery Assembly on Saturday. But occasionally, there is a weekend when nobody is being ordained or installed, nobody’s retiring, no church is having a congregational meeting or an anniversary, and no pastor is ill. Those weekends are precious in a way that’s different from a vacation weekend.
Most parish pastors do not have those opportunities. They are in worship Every Weekend except for – in my denomination – 6 Sundays a year (2 for Continuing Education and 4 for vacation.)
I also know some parish pastors between church calls who come to enjoy their “free weekends” so much that it’s almost painful to go back to working 46 weekends each year.
Everybody needs that soul-refreshing break every week when we can read Every Single Page Of The Sunday Paper if we wish. Clearly most people on the planet do not get this, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it.
What would it look like if all pastors got a real weekend at least once a month? I’m imagining a Sunday each month when other leaders (who never went to seminary) were set free to lead worship without the supervision of The Pastor. I’m imagining the resting pastor visiting another congregation to worship without any leadership duties. I’m imagining equipped volunteers. I’m imagining pastors picking up interesting ideas from other congregations. I’m imagining refreshed leaders.
I wish for you and all of us nourishing weekends. Imagine.