Magazine article Anglican Journal

PKs Face Unique Pressure: All Eyes Focus on Children of Clergy

Magazine article Anglican Journal

PKs Face Unique Pressure: All Eyes Focus on Children of Clergy

Article excerpt

EARLY November brings Take Our Kids to Work Day, when parents are encouraged to familiarize their offspring with exactly what they do all day in the great wide world.

Clergy families really don't need a special day, since their offspring are usually intimately involved with mom and/or dad's church work -- a state of affairs that has always created a unique kind of stress. Today's PKs, a universal slang for preacher's kids, say some of the pressure has eased in our more relaxed society, but new strains have emerged, stemming from Christian involvement in North American politics.

In the Book of Common Prayer, candidates for the priesthood are asked, "Will you be diligent to frame and fashion your own selves, and your families, according to the doctrine of Christ; and to make both yourselves and them, as much as in you lieth, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ?"

Right from the beginning, then, a priest's family is part of the equation.

"There is almost a sense that all eyes are on you," said Rev. Andrew Asbil, 39, recalling how he felt when he walked into church on a Sunday. "You can almost feel the snickers, the adults elbowing their kids, `Why can't you be like them?'" said Mr. Asbil, son of Walter Asbil, retired bishop of Niagara.

"The psychological pressure is not to be underestimated. I was worried about failure," said Rev. David Harris, 41, former editor of the Anglican Journal and descendant of 13 generations of Anglican clergy. "I was always being bullied by other kids."

At one time, of course, when the influence of the church was stronger, the pressure to be "good" (at least in the eyes of the public) weighed even more heavily on clergy offspring. Now, however, the attitude of many ordained parents is expressed in a document written by Bishop Duncan Wallace of Qu'Appelle when he stood for election in 1997: "My family members are not extensions of me, but, rather, are members of the church in their own right."

Andrew Asbil said that in his household "there was never a sense of `you've let down Jesus,'" although he said he's heard from some PKs who have been subject to that kind of pressure.

Clergy parents, faced with family difficulties, may find it hard to turn to the diocesan bishop who is, after all, the boss, noted Rev. Dawn Davis, human resources officer for the Diocese of Toronto.

"The clergy are supposed to have such perfect families. The last thing I would think is they would come to me," she said.

Mrs. Davis said that 80 per cent of people seeking help from Toronto diocese's employee assistance plan mention family issues, with the rest citing work, financial, or substance abuse issues. …

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