Self-care for ministers and providing clear information for parishioners essential to help church

The information based on coronavirus has been sent to parishes around the country and taken up by many Anglican dioceses.

Ensuring ministers look after their physical and mental health and providing clear information for parishioners is key to helping church communities cope with the trauma of coronavirus, new advice says.

Information has been circulated to dioceses based on lessons learned by ministers and their congregations in the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster, the terrorist bomb in Manchester, and terrorist attacks in London.

The research team who put together the advice has trained ministers working around the UK to lead their congregations through disaster and trauma. The information based on coronavirus has been sent to parishes around the country and taken up by many Anglican dioceses.

Professor Christopher Southgate, from the University of Exeter, who is leading the project, said: “Our advice reminds ministers their parishioners may feel not be feeling safe at the moment, and this manifests itself in all kinds of symptoms. Ministers should show it is normal to be up, down, energetic, exhausted and afraid.

“The guidance also reminds ministers people will react very differently depending on different backgrounds and experiences, and congregations and members of the community will respond best when they have clear, reliable information; when they have something to do and when they are cared for in warm and authentic ways. Even phone calls can be reassuring.”

The guidance says ministers should think about how Christian stories could contribute to the many current “generous and heroic actions of many”.

Researchers on the project found the experience of those in London and Manchester shows the importance of self-care for ministers involved in traumatic experiences in their community. This includes being in touch with someone they trust, regular rest, meals and exercise. The research also showed the importance of churches having links with other faith groups, as they can provide key practical and emotional support for each other in the aftermath of disaster.

The research shows having background knowledge of how trauma works helps ministers to shepherd their energies and resources and to respond with compassion.

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