Posted by Liz Graveling on 9th March 2017
Over the past six weeks, nearly 800 clergy and ordinands – half of those invited – have taken part in the first Living Ministry survey. That’s a remarkable response that will provide us with a rich picture of what and how clergy are doing. A massive thank you to all who have participated and encouraged participation: we deeply value your time, effort and honesty and are grateful for your comments and suggestions which will help us to refine the survey for future stages of the research.
While recognising that participation can be costly, it’s good to know that for many it is also life-giving, even before the answers are read. In the words of one participant: "Amazing how much even being asked these questions helps!"
Dr Lindsey Hall, Director of Vocations for Lichfield Diocese, reminds us of why understanding flourishing is so important.
Human flourishing is fundamental to Christian living. God has called each one of us to fullness of life, to be the best version of ourselves. To be the ‘you’ God knows you can be.
For much of human history, the majority of people have lived hand to mouth in subsistence economies where the main enterprise of all was the survival of the group. Most humans that ever lived didn’t experience luxury, or substantial leisure time, or have a whole lot of choices about how to spend their lives. But even without those things there have always been humans who flourish.
Flourishing isn’t what we do when we have everything else taken care of; it’s not an icing on the cake sort of thing. It is fullness of life that comes from knowing who we are and whose we are. It is about purpose, relationality, belonging and a whole range of other things that contribute to a meaningful life. It does not require any specific set of circumstances, as the Zimbabwean author Matshona Dhliwayo says, “If a flower can flourish in the desert, you can flourish anywhere.”
And yet there are so many things that limit our ability to flourish; sometimes the very things that should be life-giving. Christian community should be how we flourish together, but the many pressures of church life and challenges of ministry can damage flourishing. And that isn’t ok.
The Living Ministry project is a serious attempt to understand what supports flourishing in ordained ministry and what diminishes it so that as a church and as individuals we can make choices about training and ministry development that are more likely to encourage the wellbeing of clergy and of the whole church.
Jesus’ invitation to abundant life is manifested in the church but all too often, that isn’t what is heard by the wider world or indeed by members and leaders of the church itself. Rediscovering fullness and flourishing and investing in the things that encourage them are vital to the wellbeing of clergy, the effectiveness of ordained ministry and the life of the church.
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