26th July 2019

The Covenant – on a journey towards culture change

As work on implementing the Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing continues, St Luke’s takes a look at what can make change happen

The Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing received overwhelming support at Synod in July and is expected to be proclaimed an Act of Synod in February 2020. St Luke’s, as the only third sector organisation to have input into the Covenant, has been involved since its conception in 2017, with St Luke’s Reflective Practice Adviser Jan Korris a member of the Covenant Working Party.

‘With St Luke’s emphasis on preventive care, and the resources we offer in resilience training and reflective practice, we are very heartened by many of the Covenant’s recommendations and the debate around these,’ says Dr Claire Walker, St Luke’s Chief Executive. ‘This includes the statement in the Synod report that “the minimum we should aim for is creation of a culture where some form of pastoral supervision and reflective practice is the norm”. St Luke’s recent work with dioceses to enable them to collaborate and share best practice has been enthusiastically received and we see this as an ongoing part of our work as the Covenant rolls out.’

At its heart

Relationship is key, says Philip Arundel, St Luke’s Strategic Development Adviser: ‘What happens now with the Covenant needs to keep front and centre principles that have emerged during its development. These include the centrality of the quality of relationships – honesty with mutuality is vital – and the significance of this being ‘covenant’ and not ‘contract’ relationship. At St Luke’s, we know how important this is because we support clergy every week who are struggling for lack of healthy, supportive relationships in their ministry.’

Below, Reflective Practice Adviser Jan Korris and St Luke’s Chairman Edward Martineau sum up what St Luke’s sees as the Covenant’s biggest wins – and the challenges it could face.

Greatest strengths
  • Synod sees value in the Covenant [read more]
  • It is an active document with a timescale describing what needs to be done, by whom and when
  • It contains a strategy to ensure this happens – a facilitated implementation group
  • It describes a process – the ‘Big Conversation’ – to help prevent confusion or avoidance [read more]
Helpful outcomes
  • Clergy wellbeing will now be seen as a valid – and unavoidable – subject of discussion
  • It has a strong theological underpinning by Dr Margaret Whipp
  • It has an integrity connecting it with Setting God’s People Free [read more]
  • It is aimed at culture change, not just tinkering round the edges
  • The wording of the Covenant provides a solid core on which dioceses clergy and lay people may and should reflect
  • It should open a door for third sector organisations to offer wellbeing training to the Anglican Church
Biggest challenges
  • Ensuring dioceses engage in a coherent rather than idiosyncratic way
  • Putting across to diocesan bishops that they need to lead on culture change for the Covenant to succeed
  • Helping clergy to understand that working with both the diocese and the congregation in relation to the Covenant will truly benefit and not burden them
  • Putting across to congregations that there is value ‘both ways’ in joining in the Big Conversation