Convener acknowledges Mission Planning has been incredibly stressful for ministers
Published on 23 May 2023 3 minutes read
The convener of the Faith Nurture Forum has acknowledged that Presbytery Mission Planning has been "incredibly stressful" for ministers.
Rev Rosie Frew said the process has been the "hardest of things" for the Kirk as it seeks to reshape the Church for mission and service around fewer buildings and fewer charges due to diminishing finances and members.
She revealed that 4% of 596 ministers were currently on sick leave and 14% of them had cited work-related stress.
Mrs Frew spoke out after Rev Roddy Hamilton, minister of New Kilpatrick Parish Church in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, told the General Assembly that Presbytery Mission Planning has been very stressful and asked how many ministers were off sick.
Mrs Frew said: "Presbytery Planning has been the hardest of things and we recognise that and we know that for most of our ministers it has been incredibly stressful.
"However, there are 4% of our ministers who are off sick, that fluctuates between 4%-6% over the years.
"Some 14% of the 4% are off with what has been described as work-related stress.
"We are living in incredibly stressful times, it is not just Presbytery Mission Planning, there are many stresses upon us and everyone in our land at this time."
Issues unsettling people include the cost of living crisis, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
Mrs Frew said that many of the causes of stress are due to the breakdown of relationships between people.
"People not being kind, considerate or respectful to one another," she added.
"There is a lot that we can do to make a hard situation (more tolerable).
"We can all be careful with the language that we use and how we treat other people as we go through this process."
Mrs Frew said the Church Offices provided support services for ministers and encouraged people to make use of them.
"I am very conscious that we ask a lot of those in the recognised ministries.
"Ascend is the branding for the wide range of materials, courses and support options that are available to those in ministry.
"So, can I urge my colleagues to take the time to read the monthly e-mail or access the website, to keep up to date, and to engage.
"Lifelong learning is so important and looking after ourselves and one another is imperative."
Mrs Frew said that 37 ministers have demitted in the last year for a range of different reasons, not just presbytery planning.
"The last four years have seen massive changes in life and work as a consequence of the pandemic, massive changes in Church life and work as a consequence not just of the pandemic but of Presbytery restructuring and Presbytery Mission Planning.
"From the beginning I've likened the journey the Forum has been on to that of a caterpillar transforming to a butterfly.
"It's a metaphor that is just as fitting for the Church in these times, we're currently going through the chrysalis stage.
"While some people think of the protective casing of a cocoon or a chrysalis as a resting place it's anything but.
"There's a lot of activity going on inside as the old caterpillar body is broken down into a kind of gloopy caterpillar soup before being turned into something new, transformed into a butterfly in all its beauty."
Planted and nurtured
At the beginning of the Presbytery Mission Planning process in 2021, there were 41 Presbyteries.
A total of 30 plans have been agreed and are now being implemented and work is continuing to ensure others are approved.
Mrs Frew said: "Can I urge the presbyteries to continue to tend what has been planted and nurtured, and the green shoots of growth.
"Already the Church is changing and the future will be very different.
"In 2019, the Forum was tasked with the development of 100 new worshipping communities.
"Congregations now report 400 new worshipping communities in some stage of development, including Messy Church, Café Church and online worship.
"The Pioneer Scotland network has grown to 300 members and last year the online ministry Sanctuary First was brought within the national Church."
Mrs Frew commended the Church's Priority Areas Team and the Priority Areas churches for their commitment to serving and speaking out for the country's poorest people in the face of COVID-19 and the cost of living crisis.