Barbara Blodgett writes this weeks Alban Institute offering, discussing an important challenge facing many clergy: Loneliness.
While there may be something to the idea that as ministers we should always feel like we are “in over our head” (or else we may not be taking our calling seriously enough), there is no point in drowning! Joining with our peers to figure out what makes ministry so hard can help us keep our heads above water. While loneliness is traditionally one of the hardest parts of professional ministry, we do see signs today that pastors are changing this. There are many members of the clergy who are not struggling and who want to join peer groups because they relish the chance to reflect on work they enjoy (even if they find it challenging) and desire to improve. Peer groups are, in short, for those who are keeping their heads above water and want to stay there.
Pastors need to get a collective grasp, first of all, on what contributes to the loneliness they experience. I am not pointing out anything new by saying that the ministry is considered a lonely pursuit. Nearly every conference I attend or piece I read on the formation of ministers stresses our need somehow to change the culture of loneliness for clergy and other religious leaders.
At some point, someone invariably brings up the metaphor of the Lone Ranger, implying that ministry may be compared to traveling all alone across a vast landscape. Indeed, loneliness in their work is frequently given as a primary reason why ministers seek out their colleagues. Many acknowledge that ministers are hungry for the companionship of others. Simply belonging to a group of peers that gathers regularly, whether it be for fellowship, spiritual formation, or continuing education, can go a long way toward meeting clergy’s felt need to break out of their isolation.