At the heart of my ministry is the call to an ever deepening relationship with God and his love. I have sought over the years to become what Ian Cowley calls a Contemplative Minister (The Contemplative Minister 2015 BRF), nurturing my faith in what is a hectic world I endeavour to minister from a still centre. I know that many ordained ministers seek to do the same.
As we seek to minister from that still centre the world often takes over; people have unrealistic expectations of us, we struggle to maintain boundaries, we can lack collegial support, we face pastoral challenges and added to that many of us think we a super human.
So are we surprised that St Luke’s healthcare for clergy found in a recent survey that around 12% of the clergy who responded said they were struggling or barely coping. Two-thirds of those said they frequently considered giving up their role in the Church because of stress.
Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of Clergy 2015 states that Bishops and those exercising pastoral care of the clergy should both by word and example actively encourage the clergy to adopt a healthy life style and maintain a commitment to the care and development of themselves and their personal relationships.
If clergy are to care for the flock of Christ we need to ensure that we care for ourselves and each other. So I was delighted that one of my first official activities in the London Diocese was to host a clergy INSET Day on well-being.
Promoting well-being requires us as individuals to take responsibly for ourselves, developing strategies and patterns of ministry which help us to maintain a balanced life of service, rest, prayer and recreation. The church needs to promote and support clergy resilience, helping them to reflect on their practice in safe places and we need to signpost people to access advice and counselling if necessary.
As I listened to The Revd Dr Gillian Straine I was challenged by her suggestion that rather than well-being we should talk about flourishing – finding God’s purpose for our lives, an embodied existence, where mind, body and spirit are united and where we can express our vocation to the increase of God’s kingdom. This allows us to be in that place where we thrive but may not fulfil the narrow definition of being well.
To thrive still requires us to take responsibilities and encourage each other but it does open up a wider understanding of well-being. A thought for the General Synod group looking at ‘A Covenant for Clergy Well-being?