Nov 2017

First Thoughts: Revd Terry

In the October edition of St Mary’s News, I described a discovery Linda and I made on our recent holiday in Shropshire, close to where northwest Herefordshire meets the Welsh border. The latest copy of their local parish magazine revealed we were in a large benefice comprising six parishes with a Rector and a self-supporting minister assisting her.

When I read the Rector’s pastoral letter, it caused me some sadness. Clearly all was not well. She wrote she had been their parish priest for just over a year but was finding it very difficult to exercise her ministry among them as she would have wished. She acknowledged that for some of her flock “she was not the kind of priest they had looked for”.

Now, whether the problem was because she was a woman and they had wanted a man or some other reason, I couldn’t tell, but I was saddened not only that she was experiencing difficulties, but also that she had come to the point where she had to go into print about it.

No one who enters into ordained ministry ever expects their path will be perpetual sweetness and light. That is something it can never be. Misunderstandings and disagreements within a church setting can

sometimes take on a rather spiteful tone, and it would be wrong to think that the clergy are untouched by it.

Now I do not know what happens in that particular diocese, but we are very fortunate in Chichester diocese that clergy welfare and support is now being taken very seriously. Rebekah Golds-Jones was recently appointed to provide confidential pastoral care and counselling for clergy and their families.

Acutely aware of the toll that parish ministry can take on their loved ones and all who depend upon their clergy, both inside and outside immediate families, CONNECT (formerly known as the Chichester

Clergy Spouses Group) organised and facilitated a conference for clergy couples at Crawley at the beginning of last month.

Under the title Emotional Health and Wellbeing, two keynote speakers covered issues such as setting boundaries, dealing with anxiety and the need for support in looking after ‘ourselves’. Over sixty people attended and greatly appreciated the initiative.

It would be good, wouldn’t it, for it to be more widely recognised that ordination does not make the clergy immune to all the anxieties that life has a habit of throwing at us. And, at the same time, to keep in our prayers all clergy who are currently under stress, wherever they are.

God bless,

Terry


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