If you read the Church Times you may have seen Angela Tilby’s column from the 9th December issue urging clergy to avoid family-olatry this Christmas. It would have caught my eye at any time but I was particularly struck by her words as I have lately been putting much thought into my understanding of marriage and ministry and how a couple balances these two demanding callings. Rev Tilby argues that ‘Clergy and ministers today often seem to buy into a view of the family which is difficult to justify from the Gospels.’ I totally agree but would suggest that this is far more likely to be in the direction of neglecting the family due to idolatry of the ordained ministry than the other way around. Rev Tilby claims that thirty years ago the parish came before family at Christmas; I can imagine many clergy spouses thinking that the parish only coming first at Christmas would be a marked improvement on their clergy partner’s current working practice. Continue reading
This time last year I published a post about Christmas and it has been my most viewed post so far. I think Christmas is a time when the challenges of CS life can be keenly felt and many of us and our clergy other halves struggle with balancing church and family life. So here is a slightly updated version of last year’s post for anyone who missed it the first time, hopefully published early enough to give you plenty of time to think over how you will approach the festive season.
- Accept, grieve, get Christmas in perspective
I often dislike people’s talk of sacrifice with reference to CSs because too often the sacrifice they are referring to is unnecessary and could be prevented with some common sense and compassion. In the case of Christmas I think that for most CSs the ‘normal’ family Christmas is a genuinely unavoidable sacrifice. I’ve found fighting the reality of this sort of sacrifice just breeds misery and resentment. Most of us have to accept that being married to an ordained person will require the sacrifice that religious festivals will be different for us to most people and to life before being married to a minister. It is kinder to yourself if you accept those things you cannot change and take time to mourn the Christmas you would be having if your OH was not ordained. Keep communicating with your spouse and let them know how you feel, not to make them feel guilty but so you can be supported. Keeping your feelings under wraps often just leads to brewing resentment and some sort of explosion further down the line. Continue reading
There has been a recent change to the Facebook groups offering support to CSs who are facing crises in their marriage or are separated. The original group ‘Beyond the Vicarage’ has given way to two new groups, ‘Clergy Marriage in Crisis’ and ‘Broken Rites’. ‘Broken Rites’ is for separated and divorced spouses of clergy who have become members of the Broken Rites support group, for more information about Broken Rites see their website: http://brokenrites.org/index.html. ‘Clergy Marriage in Crisis’ is aimed at those who are still married but are facing serious difficulties and need a space to vent, find advice, information and support. Both are secret groups so cannot be found through a normal search on Facebook, instead you can join them through the Broken Rites website here: http://brokenrites.org/support-links.html. For more information or help joining you can get in touch with Katharine Harrison through the Clergy Spouse Support Facebook page.
Thanks to the Clergy Spice Facebook group I have recently become aware of The Society of Mary and Martha, a charity which is based at their property Sheldon in the Teign Valley near Exeter. They offer retreat and education resources for all but also have a specialist work in supporting those in Christian ministry. Their definition of ministry for the purpose of access to their ministry resources and discount is: Continue reading
The team at Broken Rites provided the following summary of the aims of their organisation:
“Broken Rites is an organisation which was founded over 30 years ago to give advice, support and information to clergy spouses/partners who have experienced or are facing the breakdown of their marriage or civil partnership. It is open to both women and men, including those who have been in a same sex relationship. For more information or to contact us visit www.brokenrites.org.uk”
Many months ago I posted about a secret Facebook page which has been created for CSs in this situation and you can now access this group through the Broken Rites website – just fill out an enquiry form on the ‘Contact Us’ page.
There is all sorts of information on the website including links to support which may be equally useful for CSs who are not experiencing marital problems.
I was contacted a couple of months ago by a doctoral student, Portia Smith, in the Counselor Education and Supervision Program at Argosy University-Sarasota (Florida). She is working on a paper entitled Gender Differences in Clergy Couples’ Coping Skills for Marital Stress. To contribute to this research she is asking clergy and clergy spouses to take part in a survey about their coping skills for handling marital stress. I have done it myself to see what it is like and it is very straightforward, does not take much time and is done anonymously. If you are interested in helping Portia out with her research please click on this link:
More information is given about the study before you start doing the survey and it gives contact details for Portia and her supervisors. If you would like any more information before you click on the link please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can forward Portia’s email about the study to you. You will be able to read Portia’s thesis in Autumn 2016.