Living Ministry 2

The second Living Ministry report can be found here, below are the findings:

Findings of the Second Living Ministry Report

Financial and material wellbeing

  • Financial and material wellbeing is subjective and strongly influenced by the extent and expectations of change experienced on entering training and then ordained ministry.
  • Ordinands report some organisational difficulties, including lack of clarity (especially for ordinand couples), inconsistencies, late notice, payment delays, and cash-flow problems.
  • The experience of ordained ministers varies enormously: some have no financial or material concerns while others struggle to make ends meet.
  • While self-supporting ministers generally report higher levels of wellbeing, financial reward is also understood to some extent as symbolic of value attributed by the Church, leading to tensions especially for those not intending to be self-supporting.
  • Among stipendiary ministers, paradoxically, women may be better off financially at the cost of wider gendered societal workplace inequalities.
  • The end of curacy is a time of particular financial and material vulnerability and anxiety because of pressure to vacate housing and uncertain future income.
  • Clergy draw on a wide range of resources to manage current and future finances, including additional private income, diocesan assistance, government benefits, commercial services and charitable grants. Strategies for future retirement include property ownership, CHARM and house-for-duty roles, and the need to plan is held in tension with trust in God’s provision.
  • Participants report a range of experiences of tied housing, with size, value and potential to rent out privately owned property set against high utility bills, lack of control or a sense of home, and blurred public/private boundaries.
  • Role and ministry context both affect clergy financial wellbeing, with incumbents in particular feeling responsible for parish finances and therefore perhaps less likely to claim expenses.

Physical and mental wellbeing

  • Ordinands training in different ways face different health challenges, notably a sedentary lifestyle with institutional food for residential ordinands, tiring juggling of activities for context based and non-residential ordinands, and deep formational questions for all. Most participants report supportive pastoral care structures within theological education institutions; however, non-residential ordinands in full-time employment appear particularly vulnerable to mental and physical ill-health.
  • Ordained ministry is mentally and emotionally demanding, which can also have implications for physical health. Healthy patterns of living are important for both ordinands and clergy.
  • Many clergy struggle to establish temporal, spatial, mental and role boundaries around work, while appreciating its flexibility. Curates may experience less flexibility, while incumbents feel the pressure of greater responsibility. Permission-giving, whether through healthy modelling by senior clergy or effective ministerial development reviews, is important in helping clergy rest.
  • There is a clear two-way dynamic between physical and mental wellbeing and close relationships, where the state of one affects the other for better and/or for worse. Family is a key source of support, and single clergy rely on a wider network of family and friends.
  • Transitions into and out of curacy are moments of particular vulnerability to physical and mental illbeing, largely because of loss of support structures and unexpected or overwhelming demands and working conditions.
  • Within one’s immediate ministry context, physical and mental wellbeing can be affected by vocational fit, working conditions, pressures of finances and attendance figures, parishioners and colleagues, the latter two of which can both contribute to and alleviate stress.
  • Clergy often manage ill-health themselves without recourse to their diocese, sometimes because they fear negative consequences should they seek assistance (especially for mental health issues). Those who do seek help (mostly for physical issues) generally report being met with care and support.

Relationships

  • Relationships within the Theological Education Institution learning environment are extremely important to ordinands’ support and formation, especially as they may feel dislocated in various ways from existing relationships and patterns of living.
  • Initial Ministerial Education Phase 1 places strain on family relationships through time pressure and separation, experienced in different ways by ordinands across all modes of training.
  • Ordained ministry both affects and is negotiated (especially by women) within the family, while clergy find relationships with wider family and friends both a vital support and difficult to maintain.
  • For self-supporting ministers, integration of ministry and wider life may be difficult to manage but can also be experienced as deeply rewarding.
  • Managing relationships with parishioners can be challenging, with clergy taking different approaches to relational boundaries in friendship and pastoral care. Honest conversations about limitations can be helpful in developing a supportive environment.
  • Relationships with clergy colleagues are often but not always supportive, and clergy draw on a range of groups and networks to find practical, emotional and spiritual support. Safe spaces to talk and understanding of ministerial life are important elements of support.
  • Relationships between curate and training incumbent vary, tensions often relating to differing expectations of role, tradition and approach to ministry. Where Training Incumbents hold a diocesan role, curates may feel unable to turn to the diocese for support in a difficult relationship.

Vocational and spiritual wellbeing

  • As an inherently transitional phase, ordinands often experience deep questioning regarding their calling and theology. For the most part this is held within a supportive Theological Education Institution environment.
  • Clergy discuss calling and vocation at multiple levels: to ordained ministry, to ministry within the CofE, to a specific type of ministry, to a specific post or place, and to tasks within a role. Frustration is experienced when they feel restricted by structures and unable to use gifts and skills, while accompanied ongoing vocational discernment is valued and vocational fulfilment may be found in unexpected directions or where existing skills are drawn on.
  • Strategies helpful for spiritual wellbeing include: rhythms of prayer (assigned time and/or built into existing routines); individual or group peer relationships; ‘off-duty’ worship; spiritual direction, mentoring and counselling; and pastoral care and understanding from senior clergy.

Participation

  • Some ordinands, especially those training in a distant location, feel disconnected from their diocese and appreciate contact from DDOs, senior clergy and other ordinands in the diocese.
  • Theological Education Institutions are often extremely flexible in tailoring training to individual requirements; however, some minority groups (e.g. non-residential ordinands with full-time jobs) feel disadvantaged.
  • Clergy may experience pressure regarding attendance figures and parish finances, combined with awareness of significant financial investment elsewhere, which can lead to feelings of demoralisation and vocational and resource marginalisation.
  • Bishops and senior clergy play an important role in the extent to which clergy feel part of their diocese and the wider Church, through the provision (or lack) of pastoral care, practical assistance and personal contact.
  • Certain groups of ordained ministers report experiencing particular challenges to participation, including: self-supporting ministers; chaplains; same-sex attracted clergy; those not identifying as middle class or highly educated; women; and people of colour. The latter group is notable for its near absence among participants.
  • Differences in tradition may open up new experiences and areas of the Church, and may isolate, either structurally or within personal (e.g. curate – training incumbent) relationships.

Crosscutting themes

  • Periods of transition are particularly challenging in multiple areas of wellbeing, including causing physical and mental stress, isolation, financial and material concern, vocational questions and a sense of dislocation within the Church.
  • Effective management of expectations of all parties (e.g. congregations, colleagues, curates and Training Incumbents) is important to all aspects of wellbeing, especially at times of transition into new roles.
  • The wellbeing of the ordained minister and that of his/her family are intrinsically linked and affect each other both positively and negatively across all domains of wellbeing.
  • Clergy, particularly in parochial ministry, may struggle to establish boundaries around their work in terms of time, space, thought, activity, relationships and finances. While blurred boundaries may be helpful in some respects for some people, often a lack of capacity to manage them challenges wellbeing across multiple domains.
  • 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. Value may be symbolised in different ways, and personal interest from senior clergy contributes much to ordained ministers feeling known, understood, supported and valued.
  • Wellbeing is fluid and contextual, continually negotiated by ordinands and clergy in relation to other people and multiple social, economic, political, ecclesial and theological structures. It is therefore important to view clergy lives holistically. Responsibility for wellbeing is shared between multiple parties, including the individual and the various faces of the Church, in providing and developing care, resilience and structures that encourage and enable flourishing.
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