Churches and other houses of worship are facing clergy shortages as pastors and rabbis have stepped down from their roles during the pandemic.
According to Relevant Magazine, some 3,544 Catholic parishes in the U.S. do not have a parish priest, and in some dioceses, one priest oversees six parishes.
In the Reformed Jewish denomination, 5 to 10 percent more congregations are looking for a rabbi than in an average year, and some Lutheran churches are reportedly searching for pastors in other denominations because of a lack of Lutheran pastors.
The drop in clergy comes as the role has become increasingly demanding because of the pandemic. There has been division over social distancing restrictions and debates over vaccination rules.
“I love to see real change in people’s lives where they don’t feel hope or don’t feel community,” said Peter Chin, a pastor in Seattle. “I still find a lot of joy in that. But the scale of it, versus the controversy over mandates, political disagreements, expectations that come with pastoring even in the best scenarios – it feels lopsided now.”
Churches have also faced the grim reality of life in a pandemic – sometimes facing rampant sickness and death.
“You get to a point where, after being in the place for over a decade, and you see your friends and parents of your friends dying, it takes a toll,” said Noah Farkas, currently the President & CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
According to data from an October Barna Group study, 38 percent of pastors are at least considering leaving full-time ministry. Among millennial pastors, about 50 percent have considered leaving.
At the Conservative Congregation Mosaic Law in Sacramento, California, the clergy member who had served for 25 years retired in 2020, and the church brought in a retired clergy member to lead Zoom services. Eventually, a full-time clergy member was hired, but executive director Caren Rubin said she isn’t sure how long it will last.
“It’s like corporate culture,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “People don’t stay.”
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.