Father Vaseleios of Iveron was asked "What should I know before embarking on this ministry?" The elder replied, "At the eschaton, everything will be turned to ashes -- except love. Only love will remain."
Thriving in Ministry (TIM) is a resource for clergy and clergy wives, administered by the Orthodox Church in America's (OCA) Pastoral Life Department. In 2018 we were awarded a generous grant through the Lilly Endowment to further develop a program of Peer Learning to support of our clergy and clergy wives. Our program administrator, Fr. Theophan Whitfield (email), as well as our facilitators are dedicated to working with clergy, clergy wives, dioceses, and parishes of all jurisdictions to promote health and vibrancy in our shared ministry.
Clergy and clergy wives have wisdom to share. And when they share this wisdom, there is a double blessing: clergy families enjoy greater health, and parishes do as well. The research is striking. Healthy clergy families blossom into vibrant parish ministries. Sadly, Orthodox clergy and clergy wives so rarely have the chance to gather and develop communities of trust and common support. Geography is a factor, but so is the isolation brought on by stress, overworking, self-neglect, and pride. Pastoral leaders need to gather, on purpose, to do the good work of wisdom-sharing.
We care about clergy health. When is a priest or clergy wife “healthy”? There are many markers. Here are some:
(1) Healthy priests are priests who grow (rather than wither) in response to the daily challenges of ministry.
(2) Healthy priests build Christ-centered congregations that mirror the pastor's same joy, humility and creativity.
(3) Healthy clergy and clergy wives will naturally feed their parishes a steady stream of hope and joy in Christ.
(4) Healthy clergy and clergy spouses are the thriving leaders who inspire their parishes to choose change and growth over resignation and nostalgia.