Something that I am really grateful for is the interest that there is currently in the wellbeing of clergy. Below is a summary of some of the reports that have been made available:
The Church of England has commissioned a ten-year ‘Living Ministry’ research project, directed by the Ministry Council and informing the national programme of Renewal and Reform by exploring how ordained ministers can flourish in ministry. In June 2017, the first report was published entitled ‘Living Ministry – Mapping the Wellbeing of Church of England Clergy and Ordinands’. The overarching question addressed by the research is: ‘What enables ordained ministers to flourish in ministry?’. ‘Flourishing in ministry’ is understood to consist of the two interrelated aspects of:
- Wellbeing (flourishing of the person) and
- Ministerial outcomes (flourishing of ministry).
The main findings include a finding that living accommodation tied to one’s post or training is reported as less adequate and more stressful than non-tied accommodation. Single people reported higher levels of isolation than married people. Barriers to vocational fulfilment included expectations or demands of others (particularly where gifts and skills were not recognised or utilised), an overload of day-to-day ministry tasks and churchmanship differences between the ordained minister and their context of ministry.
In September 2018 the second Living Ministry report was published, entitled ‘Negotiating Wellbeing: Experiences of Ordinands and Clergy in the Church of England’. The findings include: times of transition are particularly stressful for clergy; clergy struggle to establish boundaries around their work in terms of time, space, thought, activity, relationships and finances; it is important for clergy to feel valued by the Church, particularly in the context of financial and attendance pressures combined with high profile national growth investment.
In 2017 a General Synod paper on clergy wellbeing – GS2072 highlighted the need for a Clergy Covenant for Wellbeing to address some of the issues that clergy are facing. Some of the issues that formed the scope of the research include: self-management, preventative education and training, supervision, coaching and reflective practice, stress, counselling and mental health, anti-clericalism and bullying, clergy housing, Ministerial Development Reviews, pensions, the increasing perception of “doing more with less, the Clergy Discipline Measure, safeguarding and capability.
In 2019, the Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing – GS2133, was presented to synod and passed, the document recommends including non-managerial pastoral supervision, IME training and realistic role descriptions and expectations.
Of course all these reports will be of no value unless things change. I believe things have to change both from the top down and from the bottom up… We need dioceses and the Church of England to take all this seriously and through policies, culture change and training make differences. We also need clergy to take this seriously, and through self-care and speaking about it openly we can make a difference too