Ministry can be fulfilling, it is also demanding both in terms of time and requiring psychological and spiritual resilience, so both proper ongoing support and assistance in times of crisis are vital. Advisers in pastoral care can provide part of this support.
Many of the pressures clergy experience are common to other occupations: long work hours, organisational and personal and family pressures. Particular pressures for clergy and those in ministry include: an open ended occupation, there is always something you could be doing, or someone you could be visiting; working from home, so it is hard to leave “work” behind and callers at the door don’t respect days off. Living in ‘tied’ accommodation can bring its own pressures. Isolation can be a problem, working at weekends when others are off, in some cases little contact with colleagues. Following a vocation is a source of joy but also brings challenges of its own.
It is worth reflecting on where you are able to find support in your particular circumstances.
Many in Ministry find Spiritual Direction vital, meeting with the Spiritual Director every two or three months to reflect on God, ministry and life. Henri Nouwen wrote:
The main questions for spiritual direction – Who am I? Where have I come from? And where am I going? What is prayer? Who is God for me? How does God speak to me? Where do I belong? How can I be of service? – are not questions with simple answers, but questions that lead us into the unspeakable mystery of experience.
Most Dioceses have people who can link you up with a spiritual director.
Colleagues and Groups
Some groups of colleagues can be very supportive, particularly if people are prepared to commit to meeting and work at collaboration and openness. In some Dioceses pastoral care advisers organise supervision or support or reflective practice groups.
In many professions this is compulsory; it can be enormously helpful for those in ministry to regularly meet with a supervisor to reflect on aspects of their pastoral work and direction in ministry. This can help with theological reflection, encourage reflective practice and allow consideration of boundaries and level of involvement and ethical issues.
Either individual or group based work consultancy is available in some Dioceses. This is usually short term and provides an opportunity to think about direction, effectiveness and practice of ministry. Leadership programmes fulfil the same purpose.
This can help to develop in a variety of ways and to encourage theological reflection. All Diocese provide training events; many run leadership programmes. Some pastoral care advisers organise events and training to foster psychological and spiritual wellbeing.
Pastoral care advisers can offer or arrange confidential counselling for individuals and couples. They can often also provide an immediate listening ear. Counselling services always offer a high level of confidentiality. Both individual and couple counselling are usually available.
Bishop’s Visitors provide both practical advice and emotional support to clergy spouses and families going through marriage breakdown. These may be accessed through the Bishops in each diocese.
Please also see the links to St Luke’s, Sheldon and Holy Rood House, which can be found on our links page by following the menu above or by clicking here.