After a busy week, even God needed a break.

Local religious leaders say they usually take a week or two away from the job each year to unwind, refocus and refresh themselves before coming back to tend to the needs of worshippers.

Rabbi Mark Zimmerman and his wife Linda led a multi-generational family tour of Israel, visiting the Jordan River Valley, Masada, the Dead Sea and other highlights.

The vacations can be spiritually focused, as was the case of Rabbi Mark Zimmerman of the Congregation Beth Shalom in Dunwoody, who recently returned from a three-week trip in Israel.

Or they can be a relaxing time with family on the beach, like the trip Rev. Erin Reed Cooper, associate minister at Sandy Springs Christian Church, takes each year with her family to Hilton Head, S.C. Vacation is a time for relaxation, but can also be a time for renewal, religious leaders say.

At the Kadampa Meditation Center Georgia in Sandy Springs, the resident teacher of Buddhist beliefs, Gen Kelsang Mondrub, takes a regularly scheduled spiritual holiday, according to administrative director Mayra Cuevas.

Cuevas said Mondrub was spending time in England at the end of July at a summer festival – time he will use for spiritual growth. She said Mondrub and other monks will receive “special teaching” that they will bring back to share with others.

“I think a person whose job is to help others on the spiritual path needs also to nourish their own spiritual path,” Cuevas said.

Zimmerman said he used part of his vacation to show people around on their first trip to Israel.

Rabbi Mark Zimmerman

“I find it really recharging to take people on their first trip to Israel because they have all these misconceptions,” Zimmerman said. “It’s just such a vibrant culture and vibrant place to be.”

Zimmerman said he loves Israeli food and visiting Beit Guvrin, an archaeological site. He said being in Israel reinforces his sense of identity.

“You really feel the sense your ancestors lived there,” he said.

Kent Burel, Associate Pastor at Kingswood United Methodist Church in Dunwoody, said in June his family went to Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. for its vacation. He said he likes to travel and is planning a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine.

Rev. Erin Reed Cooper with husband Rev. Chuck Jones, daughter Olivia Iobst and son Oskar Iobst.

“I think people recognize that pastors are just people, and they’ll run down. They’ll run out of gas if they don’t get renewal and refreshment,” Burel said. “The church gives us vacation time and really expects us to take it.”

Cooper said for her family it’s a chance to escape some of the pressures of her profession.

“I think what is so good for us is family time — my kids not having to be preacher’s kids for a little while,” she said. “We’re just folks hanging out on the beach. I feel like we have to unwind like that or we don’t gel as a family.”

Right, Olivia and Oskar play on the beach in Hilton Head during the family’s annual vacation.

She said her family doesn’t schedule any special religious activities during the vacation. The very act of getting away from it all carries its own spiritual meaning, Cooper said.

“The nice thing about God is you can’t get away from God,” Cooper said. “It’s important to remember that the work of the church, the church building doesn’t hold it. When you leave here, you’re reminded why you do ministry… Being at the edge of the ocean, I can’t think of a better place to be aware of the goodness of God.”

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of