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Clergy Wellbeing

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1. Message from Bishop Sarah

The Bishop of London, The Rt Rev and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE

Dear Friends,

In these difficult days our clergy households are very much at the forefront of my mind and in my prayers. Even at the best of times, life in the Vicarage has its pressures, both for clergy and for those who share it. Right now those pressures are magnified hugely. Some of you are single and physically alone with the very specific issues that brings. Other households have more than one adult working from home, raising several challenges. Many are sharing time and space with children who need reassuring, entertaining and educating. You might be supporting friends and family members who are unwell, whether they are living with you or at a distance.

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We have gathered a few resources here in a new section of the wellbeing pages of the Diocesan website. They cover themes such as physical and mental health, faith-focussed commentary, cultural resources and suggestions for keeping children occupied. There are also signposts to organisations responding to the rise in homelessness, alcoholism and vulnerability to domestic abuse. Social isolation is exacerbating all of these issues and you may be called upon to point people in the right direction. We hope that all of our clergy households in their wonderful variety will find something helpful among this rather eclectic offer, which makes no claim to be comprehensive and cannot possibly appeal to everyone, but is offered with good intentions!

Whatever your circumstances, you will be facing significant challenges. We are all struggling to find new ways of living calmly and faithfully through this time of crisis and we need to be gentle and kind towards ourselves and one another. More than ever, our relationships need to be influenced by the biblical themes of belonging, brokenness, mutuality and love rather than the anxious competition which sometimes divides clergy colleagues and their households from one another. We can only do what is possible for us: comparing ourselves with others is deeply unhelpful for our mental wellbeing.

Some of you may already have been connected through social media with other members of clergy households and those networks will have come into their own in recent weeks. If that isn’t the case and if you have the time and the motivation to create those networks now then please do so. But in all of this remember that the last thing any of us needs is additional pressure or to feel obliged to be doing any more than we already are! Above all, in the words of St Paul, ‘Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

You remain in my thoughts and prayers.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE

2. Tools for Reflection and Action on Clergy Wellbeing

The Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing was made an Act of Synod in February 2020. The Covenant is the expressed view of the mind of the Church of England on issues relating to clergy care and wellbeing. The Revd Canon Simon Butler, Head of the Clergy Covenant Working Group, said ‘Our vision is that the work of supporting clergy in their ministry will become an integral part of the life of the Church and part of the DNA of every aspect of our mission and ministry’.

The hope is that clergy, congregations and bishops will reflect on their responsibilities and commitments in respect of clergy wellbeing. Resources for doing this can be found via this page on the Church of England website Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing | The Church of England Additionally the document ‘Churchwardens & PCC Commitment to Clergy Wellbeing’ has been developed in the Diocese of London as a useful tool for reflection on clergy care and wellbeing and a template to be adapted by parishes as appropriate. It may also be helpful to clergy in clarifying the support which they would hope to receive. It can be found here.

As a Diocese we are continually reflecting on how to improve our approach to clergy and clergy household wellbeing. We are drawing on a wide range of resources including the recent publication ‘How Clergy Thrive’, which is based on ten years’ research by the Living Ministry project How Clergy Thrive Downloadable for Local Non Commercial Use.pdf (churchofengland.org)

After an extended period of time during which people have responded heroically to the pandemic, many are now tired, emotional and frustrated, and their energy levels severely depleted, just when they are being asked to be creative all over again in order to develop a ‘new normal’. Finding ways to stop working and to rest now is therefore essential.

Whatever your circumstances, you will be facing significant challenges. We are all struggling to find new ways of living calmly and faithfully through this time of crisis, and we need to be gentle and kind towards ourselves and one another. We have gathered a few resources here to help us all do so.

All of our understanding of wellbeing and flourishing in the clerical life is rooted both in the covenantal relationship of God with creation as set out in the Scriptures, and in the hope we have of reconciliation and fullness in the life to come.

The difficulty is that each clergy person’s vocation is unique and multidimensional. The clergy life involves being a pastor, prophet, shepherd, leader and preacher. We may also add a multitude of other activities. This paints a complex picture. We can use the elegant and essential theology of wellbeing that is offered through our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord as the basis for practical, day-to-day advice.

We’ve gathered a list of 12 important actions to take or incorporate into your working life throughout each year. And of course, at any time, if you are struggling, please contact your Bishop, Area Dean, Archdeacon, Area Director of Ministry, Dean of Women’s Ministry, Dean of BAME ministry and/or Area staff for additional help and support.

As times and our needs change, so too does the assistance the Diocese offers to help create the conditions for clergy and lay ministers to thrive and flourish. Wellbeing is important at every stage of our lives, personally and professionally. For clergy, this means from selection through to retirement, including access to appropriate pastoral supervision. In this section is a selection of means of support as we nurture one another in all the challenges of our diverse vocations.

The resources provided here are very much a work in progress. If there is anything you would like us to consider adding or amending, please email the information along with an explanation for the requested change.

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