Inter-faith group formed to look out for NI clergy

A group of senior clergy from the main denominations in Northern Ireland has been set up to provide a place of spiritual and psychological “sanctuary” for their fellow clerics.

By Billy Kennedy
Saturday, 29th January 2022, 10:39 am
Minbterburn Prebyterian Church near Caledon
Minbterburn Prebyterian Church near Caledon

The group’s aim is to recognise the pressures and expectations which all clergy face and the lack of opportunity they have to talk about these, in a confidential setting.

This initiative is part of the Care4Clergy group, which acknowledges the commonalities of issues facing clergy of all faiths including dealing with congregational problems, challenging parishioners, and increased workload with fewer colleagues.

Presbyterian minister the Rev Gabrielle Farquhar, a leading member of the group, said: “No matter what our differing backgrounds within the Christian church, we found that certain triggers for difficulties like stress, burn-out, conflict are common to all clergy.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“Some struggle on without talking to anyone about how they feel or what they are experiencing, until they become ill. Others even begin to question their call.

“For various reasons the clergy are not using some of the pastoral care already available. Since the covid pandemic, some have expressed a deep sense of loneliness and others have left the ministry pastorate altogether.

“This new peer group initiative therefore opens up a whole new support network for all clergy.”

The Rev Farquhar served for 26 years until 2019 as minister of Ballycarry Presbyterian church in Co Antrim - Irish Presbyterianism’s oldest congregation. For a number of years, she was convenor of the Presbyterian church’s pastoral care of ministers and their families panel.

Roman Catholic Redemptorist priest the Rev Ciarán O’Callaghan, whose church’s clergy are all celebate (unmarried), commented: “One of the important aspects of the Care4Clergy group is its wide inter-church dimension. This will allow clergy to have a safe space outside of their own denomination, if needed. It also gives a powerful witness to the desire for unity among Christians.”

* The team can be contacted through the Care4Clergy facebook page or Care4Clergy website.