The call to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ implies that we take care of ourselves. Why? Because as God says to us, ‘I have called you by name, you are mine. Because you are precious in my sight and honoured and I love you.’ (Isaiah 43.1,4)
What can I do to look after myself?
To honour God's call in our lives, we need to ensure, as far as is humanly possible, that we are healthy in body, mind and spirit. If we are to be, and to remain, resourced, and energised for ministry, it is essential to make time for study, rest and recreation. The most important vocation is to be and to become the one God has called us to be.
We all have several vocations. Our lives are lived in the context of a variety of God-given relationships that need to be honoured and nurtured. It is tempting to allow our calling to ordained ministry to eclipse our calling as spouses or parents or children or friends, or to other significant relationships. Being a good minister of the Gospel also involves taking care of ourselves and our families, and not to become driven to succeed or victims of obsessive or destructive patterns of work.
Regular Time Off
It is essential to have at least one full day off each week. Ideally, this should include the evening before. It is a good idea to try to have two days off together at least once a month and to aim to preach no more than five Sundays out of six.
Holidays are vital for spiritual, physical, mental and emotional replenishment and clergy should take their full holiday entitlement. For those in full-time ministry this is 30 working days a year plus 8 statuary days (bank holidays) which can be transferred and, in the case of Christmas Day and Good Friday must be!
Selfâ€supporting clergy in secular employment will need to watch that their holidays are protected and that their exercise of parochial ministry does not erode their holiday time detrimentally.
Prayer and Retreat
Time and space for spiritual refreshment is essential for spiritual leadership. Daily prayer is vital and the lifeâ€blood of godly ministry. It is also important for clergy to make space for longer periods of prayer, reflection and spiritual refreshment and to do this away from home and parish or other context of ministry. It is expected that clergy will make time for an annual retreat in addition to holiday entitlement.
It is hoped that clergy will be able to have the opportunity for sabbatical leave every 7 to 10 years.
Living in the place of work
The clergy house is also the clergy home even though, for many of us, it is a base for ministry. It is important to ensure that clergy families do not feel marginalized by too regular and frequent church meetings happening in their own home, and it will often be appropriate to install an exâ€directory family telephone in addition to the parish line.
In order to protect the personal and family life of clergy, the policy of the Diocese is that there should be no expectation by the parish that the Parish Office will be located in the Parsonage house or its grounds, even if, historically, this has been the previous practice of the parish.
Hobbies / Interests
It is important to have hobbies / interests and engage in activities away from ministry. Take time out to play - you are a child of God as well as a servant of God. Regular exercise is particularly beneficial in maintaining good mental health.
Having structures of support in place is vital. Support can come from family, friends and colleagues. Clergy are expected to play a full part in the life of the Deanery Chapter which itself should provide a context for mutual support, encouragement and challenge. Some deaneries offer cluster cell groups for clergy which can provide a more discreet and confidential setting for 'bearing one another's burdens' (Galatians 6.2), mutual encouragement and prayer. Clergy are encouraged to belong to some such 'cell group' or equivalent in or outside the diocese.
The Sheldon Hub is a collaborative grass-roots resource for clergy, ordinands, and their spouses. Set up by The Society of Mary and Martha, whose ministry to clergy and their families is long-established and highly respected. The Hub is an online community of mutual support where questions can be raised and discussed, advice and resources found and shared, and prayer requests made and responded to. It's a safe, confidential space and it can be used anonymously, with a screen name, and with a real name, as appropriate. Launched in 2017, the content is significant and growing, and already valued by many hundreds of members.
Broken Rites is an interdenominational group offering mutual support and information to separated and divorced spouses and partners of clergy and ministers. Their website is www.brokenrites.org .They can be contacted through the Contact Us page of the website
Pastoring the Pastors
This booklet focuses on the pastoral care of the clergy and relates to pastors and those who support them.
How can I tell if something is wrong?
Mental health problems can often go unnoticed for a long time as symptoms can often be ignored or viewed as normal. Some important things to look out for are:
- Having trouble sleeping / oversleeping
- Feeling down / upset / teary
- Finding no pleasure in things you usually enjoy
- Having no self-confidence or self-esteem
- No appetite and losing weight or eating too much gaining weight
- Feeling agitated
- Physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
- Difficulty in remembering or concentrating on things
Where can I go to get help?
Mental health is complex and at any point anyone can need help. If you notice yourself developing any of the above symptoms and/or are concerned about your mental health, there are places you can go to receive help and support.
- Your GP - It is important to see your GP as they will be able to determine whether you require medical intervention and will be able to direct you to counsellors if needed.
- Light House Christian Care Ministry - The Light House is a counselling agency based in Coventry which offers help for the whole range of difficulties which people experience.
- Keeping Health in Mind - Keeping Health in Mind is a Christian mental health charity based in Coventry. Their 'A Brief Guide to Faith & Mental Health' gives advice about how to cope in a crisis.
- Mind - Mind is a national mental health charity who provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.