All of our understanding of wellbeing and flourishing in the clerical life is therefore 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 such as volunteer manager and administrator. This paints a complex picture and therefore moving from theology to advice which supports the day-to-day trials and victories is far from straightforward; leaping too quickly to the action lists of ‘day off, sabbaticals and supervision’ is to miss the elegant and essential theology of wellbeing that is offered through our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
St. Paul’s writes:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God- not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. Eph. 2:8-10
This is echoed in the Gospel proclamation of the new covenant with Christ, and the calling of all people into a royal priesthood:
You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last John 15.16
This suggests a fundamental freedom in Christ that must be at the heart of our faith and work life. Such freedom leads to an expansive view of human flourishing. To live well, that is to flourish, we must live in concord with the good works that God has prepared for us. We need to find unity of purpose, unity of living, unity of relationships in order to find our purpose of life. This is the wholeness and wellbeing that faith offers us, and far supercedes any ‘to do’ list of self-care. To flourish is to express our vocations as clergy which God has given us.
The way that we express this will be personal and probably guided by which part of the church we are comfortable in. But at the heart of a theology of wellbeing for the role of clergy is the freedom we have in Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the role of grace that is our gift as we seek to flourish through finding our own vocation to serve.
And we should never be afraid, God is with us. As the Canadian theologian John Stackhouse writes in Need to Know (OUP 2014), ‘God will be (epistemically) faithful so that we can be (vocationally) faithful.’ In other words, God will not give us jobs and then leave us ill equipped to do them.
It is an often lonely, taxing and difficult role and the remainder of this webpage and wellbeing section offers important practical steps that we can all learn from. But, at the heart of it, have a solid foundation and theology to guide us – one that speaks of covenantal relationship and hope glimpsed through life. And it is with such foundations that we are tasked only with doing God’s good purpose for us, fulfilling our calling and proclaiming a God who loved us first, and longs for reconciliation. And we are never alone.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, now rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, now depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom8:37-39