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Holiday Blues Mean Exhaustion for Ministers

December 21, 1985

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ Christmas, a time for joy, love and sharing, can bring stress and depression to many people, and that spells trouble for clergy who must deal with those stricken with the blues, ministers say.

Besides a heavy schedule of rehearsals, special sermons and other holiday observances, ministers also must deal with the needs of those who are emotionally hard-hit by the holidays.

″Clergy carry an extraordinary amount of stress with them - the overload of the season just adds to that,″ said Dr. Lawrence Hinshaw, senior minister of Central United Methodist Church in Phoenix.

The Rev. Marshall Lindsay of Aldergate United Methodist Church said it’s a time when people who are hurting, lonely and depressed come to the church for help.

And, he said, ″it’s great that they come - but they expect some quick solution.″

Lindsay said the hard thing is to give them the help they really need - to help them see that theirs is a year-round problem.

He said ministers are willing to help, but the price is exhaustion.

″They rise to the occasion,″ he said, ″but most clergy are really wasted after Christmas.″

″My counseling time doubles from the week before Thanksgiving through the New Year,″ said the Rev. Greg Hepner of West Congregational Church, Phoenix.

″You want to respond to them,″ said the Rev. Scott Haasarud of Faith Lutheran Church, Phoenix, noting the demands of extra services, invitations to open houses ″and all the family doings on your own personal agenda.″

Wise ministers schedule some time off before the holiday to recharge their emotional batteries to meet the extra stress, some of the clergy said. They also strongly suggested planning to take some time off after the holidays, for the same reason.

But many clergy ″try to deny the stress and problems and they usually try to tough it out,″ said Duane Holloran of Interfaith Counseling Service in Phoenix.

For many denominations, December begins the church year. That makes it a time of annual meetings, staff reviews, finance committee sessions and budget preparations.

Part of the holiday stress may be coupled with the end of fund drives and upcoming budget votes, Holloran said.

Hinshaw added, however, that despite the stress, Christmas still offers something special - ″if we’re really open to it ... a magical alchemy.″

″There is a healing balm in the presence of Christ that finds us and really does heal,″ he said.

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