How do we survive as clergy?
By the nature of the task and they way we take up positions and the unchallenged expectations of ourselves and others we are isolated and vulnerable able.
Having worked corporately and in the Defence forces here are some of the things I do and don’t do:
- Refuse to be a chaplain – expected to respond to every melodrama.
- Refuse to solve problems or do tasks the parishioners can do for themselves.
- Protect my time off – not just my day off but the hours after I knock off work. I don’t take work home and I don’t respond to unnecessary requests after 5 or before 9.
- Have something really valuable to fill the hours when you are not working, something that if you don’t do you will be less than who you are. For me that’s art. I paint 2 hours every night regardless.
- Work with my parish leaders to set goals and objectives for the future of the parish so it is sustainable who ever is the priest. This weekend we are doing a 2 day professionally lead strategic planning process of to set the parameters for the future. I am just one of the participants and my role after this is to ensure they do what they agree to.
- Resist the temptation to have a say on anything and everything.
- Always attend to the important.
- Understand that God loves bodies and minds and does not want me destroying mine because I can’t say.
- My default position when asked anything is no and then we have a conversation about, if the answer is yes what it may look like and who will do it.
Recently I experienced a negative experience and found my Diocese wanting in support. After some persistence there was offered support which I did not take. I have found professional support outside the church (psychiatrist) which has been invaluable. This has been important in helping me think about how I think and why I think the way I do. Many of our issues do in fact come from faulty thinking deeply seated in or psyche and it is important to work that through. I suggest reading books like Bessel Van Der Kolk “The Body Keeps The Score” and Rowan Williams “The Tragic Imagination”. This last is, like all Williams books a tough read, but in it he refers to unification – unifying in our selves what we think, why we think what we think and how we act and make decisions, I also see a professional supervisor monthly.
Hope this helps.