Rev Martin Thorpe appointed Bishop's adviser on wellbeing among clergy

First published on: 28th April 2023

Congratulations to Revd Martin Thorpe who has been appointed by Bishop Bev as Bishop's Adviser on Clergy Well Being. Martin will be working to get a better sense of the particular challenges and opportunities and be able to provide best practice around clergy wellbeing in our diocese.

Bishop Bev commented "The well-being of all in ministry, and most, especially for clergy who are often working in isolation, whose remit and reach is so broad and whose ministry is boundless, is a matter of significant concern.  I am delighted that Martin has agreed to step into this role.  I know he will bring sensitivity, compassion,  and a deep personal integrity and commitment to the well-being of colleagues. I am also enormously grateful to his PCC and parish for blessing Martin to us in this role."

We spoke to Martin about his role and why this is important.


Wellbeing is a big issue in today’s society – why is it important for clergy?

1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem in the UK each year, and clergy are not immune from the pressures of a fast changing society and self-evidently the demands of ministry can be very challenging. Unlike most employees, clergy often work alone and are responsible for their own Health and Safety at work which can often be neglected as the nature of our calling is to put the needs of others first. This can lead to lack of self care with detrimental effects on our physical and mental health. The lack of fixed working hours and times can also lead to overwork, leading to feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion. Although part of our ordination vow is to 'make time for yourself for rest, recreation and leisure' this can often get shunted to the bottom of the list.

What are the main issues facing clergy at the moment?

The decline of national Christian allegiance and church attendance coupled with the desire and expectation to grow our churches in an increasingly demanding environment is a big factor. Of course Fit for Mission is designed to address this and the greater collegiality and sense of 'being in it together' and sharing of the load which the larger teams of clergy should provide could have real benefits for clergy wellbeing. But the process of change and uncertainty for the parishes which clergy lead is stressful and very challenging to manage. Other key pressures on clergy are finances with many churches running deficit budgets, clergy housing and managing the competing demands of family and ministry where the demands of ministry are unbounded. The outworking of Living in Love and Faith will also prove challenging to many.

What do you bring to the role of Bishop’s adviser on well-being?

I have a long track record of advocating for clergy wellbeing through my work within Archbishop's Council working on the raft of national 'HR' type policies that came in as part of the introduction of Clergy Terms of Service, 10 years as a half-time officer supporting clergy within Lifelong Learning, serving on the diocesan Clergy Mental Health working group, being an experienced union rep within CEECA (Church of England Employee and Clergy Advocates) the Church of England bit of UNITE the Union and now as a professionally qualified counsellor within our Inter-Diocesan Counselling Service (IDCS). All these things will help to inform my role in promoting the wellbeing of clergy in our diocese.

In this role, I will be working with Nicola Milford who brings a wealth of varied experience around clergy wellbeing.

How will the role work?

I want to listen in absolute confidence to Clergy in Chapters and initially with Area Deans and senior staff to get a better sense of the particular challenges and opportunities and be able to provide best practice around clergy wellbeing in our diocese. Nicola and I will be looking for best practice in other dioceses that we may usefully apply here. I will be reviewing what we are already doing around clergy wellbeing and looking to enhance that and promote the good stuff more effectively. It may be that the Clergy Covenant which couldn’t be utilised as hoped because of the pandemic might provide one part of the toolkit for useful conversations around wellbeing – but there is plenty of good, helpful stuff out there it is just a case of raising awareness and making it more accessible.

How can clergy get support?

Although this role is not about being able to provide ongoing support to individual clergy (managing that still lies with senior diocesan staff), I will be able to help clergy find appropriate support elsewhere if they need it. There are some excellent sources of support here:


Are there others in other dioceses or is this a one-off for Liverpool?

As far as I know this is the first diocesan role with the sole remit of Clergy Wellbeing, although other dioceses have officers who have this as part of their brief.


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