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Church News

Clergy well-being worsening since 2019, study reveals

by Premier Journalist

The Church of England has released a new report on the well-being of its clergy.

The report found the well-being of the clergy has declined since 2019, with lockdowns aggravating pre-existing pressures and taking a toll on the physical and emotional well-being of church leaders.

The report is part of the Living Ministry research, a more comprehensive study first launched in 2017 which aims to gather evidence about what factors “enable ministers to flourish in ministry”.

It analyses four cohorts of clergy: those ordained in 2006, 2011, 2015 and 2016. So far, the ministry has released three waves of quantitative and qualitative research as well as stand-alone studies in specific areas.

The latest report said the pandemic had “shed light on existing issues” rather than “creating new ones”.

“In previous waves of research, clergy also spoke of tiredness and isolation, along with concerns about declining congregations, diocesan instability and the future of the Church of England. All these were intensified in the latest wave,” the report reads.

Although clergy experiences of the pandemic were varied, many found the third winter lockdown “the hardest” due to “cumulative exhaustion and responsibility for decisions regarding public safety”.

Consequently, they found the period of reopening “the most challenging” because of “cumulative tiredness, difficulties managing hybrid services and negotiating decisions over safety, withdrawal of congregational participation, and increased uncertainties within the church and wider society”.

“I think I'm probably getting more mentally tired now than I was during lockdown,” one cleric told the study. “Although we were very busy, you weren't trying to juggle two lots of things. And that's what's happening, it's just there's a lot more. Rather than paring down, things have layered up, and expectation.”

Dr Liz Graveling, author of the report, said:, “I am deeply grateful to all the people who continue to share the joys and trials of ordained ministry to help the church learn how best to care for its clergy.

“Supportive frameworks of autonomy and accountability are crucial, and the stories contained within this report illuminate how these two things can be held together in the context of covenantal relationships.”

You can read the full report here.

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