CAPTION: There are plans to set up a new diocese support group for husbands, wives and partners of clergy

Wellbeing Survey will help diocese improve support for clergy families

Posted: 22nd December, 2020

A wellbeing survey of spouses and partners of licensed clergy in the Diocese of Exeter has provided useful responses around issues like work/life balance, the need for more support and easy-to-access information.

70 people took part in the survey, conducted by the Diocese of Exeter’s Wellbeing and Pastoral Care Panel, chaired by Bishop Jackie.

She said “Thank you to everyone who contributed to this important survey, and a huge thank you to all clergy households at this time of year.

“Living in the vicarage or with clergy in your family isn’t always easy, and there are the additional pressures of this year.

“Please take care of yourselves and each other (whether you are living with family or not) and may I wish you a peaceful and happy Christmas from all the Well-being panel.”

In terms of broad support wanted or needed, responses ranged across a spectrum from those who said they had all the support they need, to those who said they do not feel supported at all and do not know how to access support.

There were also a variety of responses around social and spiritual needs, for example respondents said they would value the chance to meet with others in similar situations and the chance to make friends. Some also said it would be helpful to have support for children in cases where clergy families had moved a long way from friends in previous parishes. There were also questions raised about how to access counselling.

Some responses raised questions concerning their clergy spouse/partner and the nature of clergy work, for example: the 6-day week worked by most full-time clergy, juggling work and home space and the public nature of ministry. Some said it would have been helpful to have known beforehand how ordination would change their marriage or family life.

The Wellbeing and Pastoral Care Panel has now set up a sub group to work on short-term actions including: setting up a database of all spouses/partners who would like to be on it for direct contact, signposting more clearly the counselling provision on the diocesan website, encouraging familiarity with the newly updated Clergy Handbook and responding to individuals where serious concerns have been raised.

Longer term, Bishop Robert will invite an appropriate person to lead and establish an action group of spouses/partners who will address social and spiritual needs through  social media groups, events and spiritual networks. They will also liaise with Rural Deans and Archdeacons as needed. That person will be invited to join the Wellbeing and Pastoral Care Advisory Panel with a regular agenda item concerning the wellbeing of vicarage households. The action group will consider how best to welcome and support clergy couples and families at ordination, moving into the diocese or taking on a new role.

If you would like more information or to comment on the survey results please contact wellbeing panel member Tatiana Wilson email.