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Welcome

What we offer

What we offer What we offer What we offer

About Us

Who we are


The group currently comprises three clergy, one male and two female, across the larger denominations - Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic. 


Rev Gabrielle Farquhar, Presbyterian 

Rev Lynne Gibson, Church of Ireland

Fr Martin Magill, Catholic 

Rev Heather Morris, Methodist

Rev Jared Stephens, Moravian


Host: Jo Murphy, Director Lighthouse


Who we are


The group currently comprises three clergy, one male and two female, across the larger denominations - Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic. 


Rev Gabrielle Farquhar, Presbyterian 

Rev Lynne Gibson, Church of Ireland

Fr Martin Magill, Catholic 


Host: Jo Murphy, Director Lighthouse


Purpose of the group

The purpose of the group has evolved. As we shared our own experiences of parish ministry, and sought the views of colleagues, we have begun to articulate both the ways in which stress impacts those engaged in ordained ministry, what some of the main causes of that stress might be - and where we may need to go next, in order to bridge the gap between ‘stress’ and ‘care’.

It is our intention - or at least our hope - that we can enlighten, encourage and equip by beginning the conversation, by giving voice to the concerns, and by seeking the answer to the very question which began our deliberations, ‘Who pastors the pastor?’

How we came to be formed

Six months, four clergy, one very patient lay facilitator = One small, ‘Clergy Care’ group. It is a sad, but stark, reality for those working in a pastoral environment, that care of and for the clergy has slipped so far off the radar, that it can be hard to find at all.

While twenty first century clergy still have the immeasurable privilege of being present in peoples’ lives at times of great joy and sorrow, conversely there have probably never been a greater number of challenges and a higher level of stress among clergy.





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So, why the stress?

While our denominations differ, our structures differ, our circumstances vary from place to place, person to person - our stories are similar. Our experiences of the challenges and difficulties of modern day ministry are the same.

Our stress is complex - from many sources, requiring a number of responses. We each have individual stories, but there are common themes - stress from around us, beneath us and above us and within us. Stress which is multi-layered, cumulative - and unless we have the tools and the skills to deal with it, stress which has the potential to cause us great harm.

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So, why the stress?

While our denominations differ, our structures differ, our circumstances vary from place to place, person to person - our stories are similar. Our experiences of the challenges and difficulties of modern day ministry are the same.

Our stress is complex - from many sources, requiring a number of responses. We each have individual stories, but there are common themes - stress from around us, beneath us and above us and within us. Stress which is multi-layered, cumulative - and unless we have the tools and the skills to deal with it, stress which has the potential to cause us great harm.

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The stress ‘around and beneath us’

While there are particular issues which are specific to the clergy, stress itself is not unique to us. Perhaps the most easily identifable stressor - visible to even the most casual lay observer - is the lack of clergy, and sheer volume of ‘work’.  

Even the best-intentioned clergy, who have the benefit of peer and mentor support, still have heavy workloads - and almost all clergy have an ‘unlimited workload’. A vocation is not a nine to five job. We are always on-call, always available, and whatever good practice clergy may develop, we cannot simply switch off, clock out and stop work.

Stress doesn’t just come from the volume of work - but from the range and variety of the role. Clergy are to be ‘all things to all men’ - and women, and children, and in fact from all ‘users’ of the church’s services.

Stress comes from the expectation that we will be pastor, priest, social worker, fundraiser, PR expert, counsellor, teacher, community advocate and IT whizz kid…and that we will know how to sort blocked drains, copyright licenses and flower arrangements…

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Changed understanding of the role of clergy

Stress comes from the lack of resources then, but also the lack of understanding of the role of clergy. There is a strangely contradictory attitude - the expectation of the 1950s priest cycling round the parish - who is also adept at Facebook, Twitter and social media.  

It is difficult to be a Christian, a person of faith, in a largely secular, pluralist, society. To be an ordained Christian leader, puts us ‘out there’ as the public face of Christianity, and as the focus, at times even the target, of anti-Christian or anti-church sentiment. The modern day priest is no longer on a bicycle - but is also no longer on a pedestal, and has lost the respect which was automatically given both to the role and the person.

To be clergy in the current climate, to speak and preach and live out the Gospel message, is often to be deeply counter-cultural. To stand for any values and principles which aren’t being diluted for the popular vote, puts us automatically in the firing line, and under fire.

That applies in the ordinary, day to day business of the church. But when more controversial matters of ethics or behaviour or belief come into the public forum - the Abortion debate, same sex marriage, child abuse cases, whatever the outcome, the scrutiny, the challenge, sometimes the backlash, on clergy, can pile stress upon stress.  

Not only, it seems, has society lost its respect for clergy, but also its compassion and understanding. The role is not understood, the contribution is not valued. All are ‘tarred with the same brush'  our human vulnerability, our humanity is not seen. 

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The stress above us?

 Are we the only caring profession without ‘supervision’? A question asked recently on air, on Radio Ulster. Clergy it seems, have come late to understanding the lack of appropriate support (around us and above us) for those engaged in such an emotionally demanding role, for those who are under constant pressure and stress.  

There is still a generalised failure to see the problem, and to take responsibility for the solution. It’s a vocation, not a job, so there are no restrictions on working hours, no regulation of working practices.  

But sadly, there is also little recognition that those in positions of leadership and authority in the churches have a duty of care - pastorally as much as legally, to support, equip, care for and encourage their clergy - to provide training, skills, structures of support, welfare and crisis services.  

There is still, by and large, a culture of not talking about the issue, not admitting to any problems, and not showing any weakness. And so the stress is compounded by the pressure to cope, to be the professional care giver, and never the receiver, to ‘not let the side down’ - to always keep the mask on.

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Stress within

We are our own harshest critics. Clergy give the care, provide the support, advise those in crisis, we encourage and uphold and strengthen others. In the face of the lack of understanding from our congregations, the lack of respect from society, the lack of support from our leaders, we still absorb the stress from all sides - but few of us are trained to do more than absorb stress.  

We have little to no training in self care, little emotional resilience - that which enables us to understand, process and bounce back from the demands made upon us - and we have no confidence and support in speaking out, reaching out and asking for help - and little guidance on where to go for resources and support.

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So, what next? What can we do?

The aim of the group, our purpose in discussing clergy care, is to work out how best to support clergy in the modern church. Our desire is to encourage colleagues and friends in ministry, by beginning to bring the issues out into the open, by providing a safe place where clergy can talk about the problems faced, where stories can be shared, and solutions sought.  

By sharing some of our thoughts, and the stories of others, we hope to enlighten the people in our pews and in our parishes.

By highlighting the problem, we hope to equip those in training for ministry, and equip and support those already ordained, and to signpost those who are struggling to appropriate help and resources..

We want to engage, encourage, enlighten and equip our clergy - those human, fallible, men and women of God, who are called to the service of God and his people





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Care4Clergy

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Rooted and grounded in scripture

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Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. 

Mark 6:31-32

31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

Deuteronomy 31:8

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged

Genesis 2:2-3

2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

1 Kings 19:1-9

1Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

3Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

7The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9There he went into a cave and spent the night

Psalm 4:8

8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Additional Scriptural quotations

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Matthew 5:37

37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

John 10:17-18

17 The reason the Father loves Me is that I lay down My life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

Deuteronomy 31:8

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged

Genesis 2:2-3

2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

1 Kings 19:1-9

1Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

3Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

7The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9There he went into a cave and spent the night

Psalm 4:8

8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.

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