Writing in his diocesan newsletter, the Anglican Bishop of Shrewsbury has warned against growing workaholism, and has commended relaxation and hospitality instead.
The Rt Rev Mark Rylands says that the British have sometimes made a virtue out of unceasing work and have tended to rely upon 'being busy' as a way of feeling significant and valued.
“We feel guilty when we’re not working and we’re suspicious of anyone who lifts their nose from the grindstone too long,” he declared.
He compares Britain with France, which has more national holidays per year and an annual shutdown in August. British workers also have one of the highest records in Europe for time off due to illness and stress.
“In our fast paced world, tales of emotional exhaustion and spiritual bankruptcy are not uncommon and stress is a recognised illness. People feel stretched and overloaded – indeed it is expected of them,” said the bishop.
He continued: “We were not, however, designed to be forever on the go. Fast paced lifestyles and little sleep rob us not only of energy but also of relationships.”
Recommending time for "spiritual refreshment", in the biblical trdaition of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets, the Bishop of Shrewsbury wrote of his concern for the young and old who “seek oblivion” in alcohol, and the commonplace use of anti-depressants.
“People are yearning for real rest as the lie of consumerism's ability to satisfy in any meaningful way is being exposed. This deep recession gives us an opportunity and a choice. It could mean that we go on blindly working harder and harder to obtain the things we have grown used to possessing; or it could mean a time to take stock and count our blessings for what we enjoy.”
He concludes his letter by calling upon the church “as a creator of community” to model the true worth of human beings as men and women reflecting God's image.
“Making room for the marginalised and the newcomer, providing opportunities for people to meet, relax, play together and strengthen friendships, is a wonderful way to help people belong and feel cherished,” wrote Bishop Rylands.