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Don’t talk about us without us

21 August 2020

The Clergy Wellbeing Covenant, approved by the General Synod this year, mentions households — but then omits them from the follow-up documents. Margaret Wilkinson, on behalf of the support group Broken Rites, has taken the liberty of rewriting GS2133 to include them


THE Clergy Covenant for Wellbeing was passed by the General Synod in February this year. In it, the Church of England commits itself to promoting “the welfare of our clergy and their households” (my emphasis). The covenant, then, is not just for the clergy and the wider Church, but for their households as well.

Broken Rites fully supports this initiative. It believes that attending to the well-being of clergy and clergy households is one way of reducing relationship breakdown. The “Big Conversation” initiated by the Church to promote this well-being does not, however, include members of the household.

I have, therefore, adapted some of the questions addressed to members of the clergy, and invite readers to reflect on them and, if they wish, to reflect within households, with members of other clergy households, with others in the parish, and with church leaders and those responsible for training ordinands.

Broken Rites hopes that, by doing this, it will help to create a greater awareness and understanding of the care and well-being of clergy households across the whole church.


THE Big Conversation has four sections and four sets of questions to reflect on. This is my revised version:

Reflecting on our baptismal calling

As members of the priesthood of all believers, we are called by God to our own individual vocations, to work with and respect others in their calling, and to build up the body of Christ.

To do this faithfully, we believe that each individual is well-advised to:

  • Attend to their own care and well being, and to set aside time for rest and recreation, retreat and study/activities for their own and others’ flourishing and growth;
  • Understand how their role as a member of a clergy household is perceived and experienced within the Church.

Questions to reflect on:

  • How does your life reflect that of Christ?
  • What resources are offered to you by the diocese to promote care and well-being?
  • Are you “hard to reach” when care is offered or well-being is promoted? Are senior clergy and well-being services hard to access in your area?

Reflecting on looking after yourself and others

Given the strong association between physical and psychological health and well-being, Christians attend to their own health and fitness to promote resilience, thus linking care and self-care.

To do this faithfully, we believe, each individual is advised to:

  • Practise good stewardship of their own health and well-being in support of their calling;
  • Establish and observe appropriate personal boundaries between home and parish;
  • Grow in awareness of their limits and vulnerability, monitoring their own needs and health in times when they are providing demanding levels of care to others.

Questions to reflect on:

  • With whom do you regularly reflect on how you are nurturing your own calling?
  • To what extent are you enjoying good physical and mental health?
  • What boundaries of time, space, and demands on you — both physical and psychological — do you aspire to? How are you doing?
  • What are the warning signs of stress and burnout for you? What signs of resilience do you recognise in yourself? How can you build on your qualities?
  • Do you know where to find help, whether for diagnostic stress tests or other self- help tools or support, from within or beyond your diocese?

Reflecting on being a public figure

By the nature of your household, you are to some extent in the public eye.

To do this faithfully, we believe that each person is well-advised to:

  • Understand the character, shape and boundaries of this public service in conversation with others;
  • Be aware of the way in which their own life and story affects them when in the public eye.

Questions to ponder:

  • How much do you find yourself in the public eye?
  • How does your personality affect you when in the public eye?
  • When you are vulnerable as a public figure, are you able to manage this in a creative way?
  • How are you perceived by others to respond to feedback or complaints?

Reflecting on you and your household

The support and encouragement of those who share their lives with ordained ministers is a significant contribution to their care and well-being. It is, therefore, part of the responsibility of the whole Church to provide for the minister’s household.

To do this faithfully, we believe, each minister is well-advised to:

  • Ensure their approach to ministerial work takes into account the needs of those with whom they share their lives;
  • Work with the local church to ensure that boundaries in relation to their household are respected and, where necessary, enforced.

Questions to ponder

  • What are the pressure points, if any, for your intimate family relationships and the ordained person’s ministry? How are these addressed or mitigated?
  • Can you have an appropriate conversation with your church about the boundaries between the ordained person’s ministry and the household’s needs? If not, is there someone who could help you?

Broken Rites is a support and campaigning group for clergy spouses or partners who are experiencing marriage difficulties and breakdown. You can also find them on Facebook


The Clergy Covenant for Wellbeing

THE Church of England is part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in every generation.

In its formularies, the Church of England recognises that God calls men and women to serve as deacons, priests and bishops to build up and equip the whole People of God.

Conscious that such a calling is both a privilege and a demand, we as the Church of England commit together to promote the welfare of our clergy and their households in terms expressed in the Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing.

We undertake to work together to seek to coordinate and improve our approach to clergy care and wellbeing that ordained ministers may flourish in their service of the mission of God within and beyond the Church.

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