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The Living ChurchMarch 16, 1997Support Needed by David S. Hoag 214(11) p. 10-11

Recently a priest of long standing was removed from his cure by his bishop. The decision was not made to benefit anyone, but was made for the sake of the parish. For all who knew of this action, and especially those who were personally involved, both the events that led up to it and those that have followed have been painful. "Why?" seemed to be the most difficult question to answer. Sadness, anger and fear were the most obvious visible emotions.

I have studied critical incident stress and observed it first hand. I have become convinced that most of the stressors that weigh heavily on emergency responders also bear heavily on parish clergy. Over time, those stresses can cumulatively impair or destroy people, personally and professionally. I have seen "routine" stress when not recognized or acknowledged lead to divorce, alcoholism, the end of what could have been a longer career, and death. It is time that clergy embrace what can be learned from trained Critical Incident Stress people to help manage the stressors put on them in the normal conduct of parish ministry.

We need to create a support system to provide defusing, debriefing and other services, including family support. No longer is a caring bishop or a peer group adequate to deal with the real need.

(The Rev.) David S. Hoag Christ the Redeemer Church Pelham, N.Y.