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Booklet addresses issue of clergy well-being

23 October 2020

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FINDINGS from a ten-year study of clergy well-being are being offered to help recently ordained priests around the country. The booklet has been described as “wise” and “well-researched” by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The initiative is based on findings from the first phase of the Living Ministry project, which seeks to ensure that the clergy flourish. The findings are being incorporated into a booklet, How Clergy Thrive, sponsored by the Clergy Support Trust. It summarises research into the spiritual, relational, physical, and mental — as well as material — well-being of clergy and ordinands.

The study identified six principles that contributed to the well-being of ordained ministers, including handling expectations, recognising times of vulnerability, healthy boundaries, and the importance of affirmation. It is also aimed at helping personal reflection and encouraging conversations in dioceses about the Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing, launched this year after overwhelming backing by the General Synod (News, 21 February, 29 July).

The Living Ministry programme examined the well-being and flourishing of clergy ordained in 2006, 2011, and 2015, as well as people who entered training in 2016. Its director, Dr Liz Graveling, who compiled the booklet, said: “Supporting the well-being of our lay and ordained ministers is a shared responsibility for all of us in the Church of England.

“We hope How Clergy Thrive, along with the accompanying resources we are making available online, will be used by clergy, diocesan teams and theological education institutions for reflection and discussion.

“The Living Ministry programme started before the pandemic, and has already reported on its first two phases of work. Given the pressures and challenges faced by clergy, alongside the rest of the population, as a result of Covid-19, its insights are needed now more than ever before.”

Writing in the Church Times, the two Archbishops address the long-term demands of ministering in the pandemic: “We cannot sprint indefinitely, or be like the Duracell bunny, bouncing along with an empty smile on its face while others topple over. That’s not resilience.” They commend the remedies suggested by Dr Graveling.

Copies of the booklet are being distributed to assistant curates and their training incumbents, and also rural and area deans, Synod members, senior clergy, theological education institutions, and diocesan officers with a concern for clergy well-being.

Canon Simon Butler, who chairs the Clergy Support Trust trustees and chaired the working group that drew up the Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing, said: “I hope How Clergy Thrive will equip all with responsibility in the field of clergy well-being to understand what is emerging from the Living Ministry project, and what we can do together to promote the health and well-being of our ministers.”

How Clergy Thrive: Insights from living ministry by Dr Liz Graveling £2.99 (Church Times Bookshop £2.69) is available from 30 October, but pre-orders are being taken. Or it can be downloaded for free from churchofengland.org/living-ministry. Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering what happens when you stop by Stephen Cottrell (second edition) is £7.99 (£7.19).

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