Exchange provides clergy with affordable vacations

Vacations can be prohibitively expensive for a family of six, but with the help of an international Anglican program, Rev. Gregory Bloomquist has managed a few memorable holidays in recent years at a relatively low cost.

Mr. Bloomquist, a professor with Ottawa’s St. Paul’s University, first made use of the Episcopal Vacation Exchange in 1991, though the program has been operating since 1981.

For a $12 membership fee, clergy receive two newsletters a year, one in February and one in April, with listings of clergy in North America and the British Isles willing to give up their home (and sometimes vehicle) to a fellow priest in exchange for the other’s abode. Attempts to expand the program to the West Indies and South Africa have not panned out, says organizer Rev.Christopher Davis.

The appeal of these vacation exchanges, say participants, is financial. Once a clergy family has paid for its travel, lodging is taken care of.

“It’s impossible for a family our size to (vacation together),” said Mr. Bloomquist. “This makes it possible.”

One holiday saw the six Bloomquists, a grandmother and one pre-teen friend spending their holiday together in Mountain Lakes, N.J. Mr. Bloomquist’s first experience there was so rewarding, he returned a second time. He also spent a month in Norfolk, Va. through the exchange. One of the highlights of his stayshas been filling in at the local parish.

“I love to take services when I’m away,” said Mr. Bloomquist, who serves as an assistant at an Ottawa diocese church. “The real advantage is getting to know and see other areas in the context of the church family.”

Similarly, Rev. Douglas Carter said the financial benefits of an exchange holiday is one of the program’s biggest draws.

“We end up with a delightful one-month holiday that does not set us back financially for the rest of the year,” said Mr. Carter, a priest at Christ Church, Mexico City. “In addition, the church has coverage at no cost while their own clergy are on holiday. Everybody wins.”

Mr. Carter has travelled to Wiltshire, England, twice on the program, both times without a hitch — well, except one.

“One humorous experience was when I was toodling around southern England in the vicar’s car, not looking carefully, I backed into a post smashing out his tail light. I simply could not get it repaired so I left an apology note and said send me the bill.

“A week later when I returned home … I looked at my own car that he had been driving, and he too had backed into something, slightly denting my car’s rear end — and left an apologetic note saying send me the bill. We had a good laugh about that over the phone a few days later.”

Having a welcoming community is also a plus for the participants.

“In Wiltshire so many kind invitations came in for tea, for dinner, for restaurant visits, that my wife and I had to carve out time on our calendar simply to see England,” said Mr. Carter. “The people in the congregation are delighted. A different voice in the pulpit is always a welcome relief!”

The Episcopal Vacation Exchange is run by Mr. Davis, a priest in Kirkland Lake, Ont., in the Diocese of Moosonee. He took over the newsletter in 1992, though he himself has never participated in an exchange. The sheer cost of airfare for his family to travel to, say, England would be out of reach, but “maybe once my children are grown and out of the house,” says Mr. Davis.

The February newsletter listed about 40 clergy hoping to make a vacation exchange; the upcoming April newsletter will be decidedly smaller, said Mr. Davis, as most participants like to have their holiday plans finalized earlier in the year. Most years, the two newsletters carry a total of 50 to 70 applicants. Their listings in the newsletter specify whether they allow pets or smoking in their homes and whether the visiting priest will be expected to cover any of the church services.

Membership application forms may be obtained by writing to

[email protected]


Episcopal Vacation Exchange
c/o Rev. Christopher Davis
St. Peter’s-on-the-Rock Anglican Church
Box 692
Kirkland Lake ON P2N 3K1
(705) 567 3044

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