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.
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’m afraid these conferences are only for the ladies – if you are interested in meeting with other clergy wives at national conferences rather than diocese specific ones there are a few opportunities next year (2016).
The London Ministry Wives Conference Organising Team are holding a one day conference on Saturday 30 January, 10am-4:45pm in Tooting, London. This is a day of teaching and fellowship for wives of ministers with speaker Clare Heath-Whyte. For more details and to book a ticket go to the website: http://www.thegoodbook.co.uk/bookings/details?id=312
Wives of Evangelical Clergy are holding a two day conference from 1st-3rd March in Oxfordshire. There is also the opportunity to just go for the day on the Wednesday. This is another opportunity for fellowship and teaching with worship, prayer and discussion. For more details and to book see their website: http://weac.weebly.com/
The Proclamation Trust has a two conferences next year for clergy wives. 7th-10th March in Leicestershire (this is for wives of ministers who have been in ministry for 7 or more years.) The summer conference is for wives of those in training or who have been in ministry for less than 7 years and runs 4th-7th July also in Leicestershire. For more details see the website: http://www.proctrust.org.uk/conferences/index.php?type=24
New Wine have a conference for Women and Leadership in London 10th-12th November. This is for women whose lives ‘are wrapped up in leadership one way or another’. They also have several New Wine Women days which are not specifically for women involved in leadership but may be of interest. For details of all of these go to: https://www.new-wine.org/events
You will have noticed that these are all for women and are at the evangelical/conservative end of the church spectrum. I am yet to hear of anything aimed at men or both men and women or for those of other churchmanship. Having grown up in the more liberal end of the church I suspect this is at least partly because there just is not such a conference going culture in those churches. Gender differences may also be a factor in terms of level of interest in meeting up in this way and perception of the role of CS. There is also the practical complication of many conferences happening during the week which is tricky if you are in paid employment. So my apologies to anyone who feels left out, perhaps as more women are ordained into the church there will be enough men wanting a conference that someone will get organising – maybe you are that person and just don’t know it yet!
A couple of weeks ago one of the admins from a Facebook group aimed at supporting CSs got in touch and they have kindly said that I can write a post about the group to help spread the word to those who may not have come across it yet. The group is called ‘Mrs and Mr Vicarages’ but is secret so cannot be found through searching Facebook – only members can see it and the content. This allows for a high level of privacy and makes it a safe space for CSs to bring their questions, worries, prayer requests and on occasion to let off steam. It also means that word of mouth is the only way for people to find out about it so if you know a clergy spouse give them a heads up!
There are almost 300 members so there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to consult if you need advice or information. I’ve been a member for a couple of weeks and already really appreciate the supportive atmosphere and seeing from others’ posts that I am not alone in the challenges and frustrations I have encountered. The normal way of joining is for a current member of the group to invite you and the admins approve new members before they are accepted. If you do not know a current member but are interested in joining you can contact Jo Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments from other CSs have made me aware that there is information they would like to have which is actually available it’s just no-one has told them that it exists or where to find it. So here are pointers to bits of each diocesan website which may be of interest to clergy spouses. Every diocese does things differently so it varies as to how much information you can find on each website and how it is organised – some have such comprehensive clergy handbooks you can find everything there. I hope these links will save you a bit of time as the user-friendliness of each website also varies significantly. I’ve included clergy handbooks again as some links have changed since I put the list up in February. Continue reading
After some useful feedback and suggestions I decided that an online forum, accessible only to CSs, would be a good way to go beyond what a blog can do. This will be a space where CSs can seek advice, share experiences and just generally chat freely with other people in the same boat. A fellow CS, Julie, suggested using Google Groups as this would be accessible for people who are not on Facebook. She has led the way on this and created the group which is officially up and running. Our hope is that this will be a group which is easy for people to access and by being separate to other social media such as Facebook will allow members to be as private about their details as they wish. Now all we need is some people to join and get stuck in. The key information you should need is as follows:
- This is a closed group for CSs (I include spouses of clergy in training in this term) so you can post knowing that only other CSs are reading. In order to join the group you need to apply and provide a few pieces of information so that we know you are a genuine CS (not that I can imagine anyone wanting to join who isn’t but better safe than sorry)
- In order to access the group you will need a Google account if you don’t already have one. This Google account can be associated with a non-gmail email address so you do not need to start using Gmail (although an email account will be set up for you automatically), you just need a Google username and password. To set up an account go to: https://accounts.google.com/SignUp?service=mail
- To apply to join the Clergy Spouse Support group go to: https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!forum/clergy-spouse-support
- You will be asked to sign in so you will need to have a Google username and password as mentioned above. Once you have signed in you will see the option to apply to join. When you click on this you will be asked for some information (Name, Church/Training College, Relationship to Clergy Person) as part of your application. You will get an email telling you when your application has been approved.
- Any member of the group will be able to reply to posts and start new topics themselves.
- Anything said within the group stays within the group. I may use people’s contributions in blog posts but this would be as anonymous advice – if I thought something was so specific it could be connected to you I would ask your permission before including it.
- Other members will be able to find your email address (and through this your Google+ profile if you have one) but no other information will be available. If you don’t want people to know your usual email you can sign up with the gmail email which will be created anyway when you set up a Google account. You may then be as anonymous as you wish.
If you have any questions just let me know. Julie and I look forwards to meeting you in the group!
Here are links to all of the handbooks/clergy information I could find. If you can fill any of the gaps just let me know and I’ll add them in. Continue reading