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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Spotlight on better pastoral supervision

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Bromley Anna Chaplaincy hub at St John’s Church, Beckenham

Bromley Anna Chaplains explore the benefits of pastoral supervision

The first Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends in Rochester Diocese were commissioned in 2017. The team has grown steadily; there are now 35 Anna Chaplains, 27 Anna Friends and others currently training. From the early days, local hub meetings were organised to enable networking and learning across parishes. Anna Chaplaincy mentors have been appointed as a source of support for individuals. In 2021, six archdeaconry leads were commissioned to work with diocesan lead Julia Burton-Jones (also training and development lead for Anna Chaplaincy at BRF).

Pastoral supervision is an area of support the diocesan team are seeking to develop. BRF is also exploring how it is provided to the national network, with a themed workshop on this topic scheduled for 14 March. The first local hub meeting of 2023 in Bromley provided an opportunity to discuss what we mean by pastoral supervision and how it might help. How is pastoral supervision different from line management? What might it offer Anna Chaplains in enabling them to be resilient and avoid burnout?

Bromley Archdeaconry leads Sophie Sutherland and Diana Pattison hosted a meeting at St John’s Church in Beckenham, where Deirdre Cornish-Browne is Anna Friend, soon to be Anna Chaplain. The meeting was held in St John’s attractive Green Bird Café, and vicar David Jones called in briefly to welcome Anna Chaplains from across the borough.

Sophie introduced the discussion about pastoral supervision by reading a definition from the website This described ‘a regular, planned, intentional and boundaried space’ where a supervisor meets one or more practitioners to look together at their practice. This is offered away from the practitioner’s ‘patch’.

The website goes on to say that pastoral supervision is a supportive relationship based on trust, respect, confidentiality and openness, allowing the one being supervised to explore issues arising from their work within a framework of spiritual and theological understanding. It is a space where the practitioner can work through the emotional and psychological impact on them of their encounters with the people they support. The aim is for them to grow and develop in their practice as they reflect theologically; this is a mutual process, with the supervisor and supervisee learning together. It helps in establishing boundaries and professional approaches to practice.

Sophie also introduced the group to Justine Allain-Chapman’s book Resilient Pastors, published by SPCK in 2012. Justine was involved in ministry development in Rochester Diocese before moving to Lincoln Diocese to be archdeacon of Boston and had supported Sophie’s training in the early days of her ordained ministry.

Members of the Bromley hub reflected on the importance of meeting up regularly to share stories, learn from one another and pray. The group is a source of encouragement and guidance, with mentor Revd Christine Latham following up in responding to individual needs. Sophie’s parish fund her pastoral supervision, but she acknowledged this was unusual.

As stories were shared through the meeting, Julia Burton-Jones reflected there were many scenarios and issues described which might helpfully have been taken to one-to-one pastoral supervision:

  • A man with dementia in distress over his wife’s death five years on

  • A person with dementia angry with God over the death of a child

  • Member of a bereavement group who can ‘monopolise’ sessions

  • A safeguarding concern raised about neglect of an older person

The group reflected on the pressures on clergy, many carrying heavy burdens, subject to criticism and receiving little affirmation. They understood the lack of time and energy left over for supervising team members and wanted to be encouragers of their clergy. For Rochester Diocese and for BRF, however, regular one-to-one line management for Anna Chaplains with their ministers (or another person in the church leadership team) is an essential prerequisite in establishing an Anna Chaplaincy.

BRF is exploring how to strengthen line management and supervision for Anna Chaplains in the national network, and Rochester Diocese is developing responses to this priority. New Anna Chaplains start with a working agreement and a plan to meet regularly with their line manager in the parish, usually their incumbent. The emotional impact on Anna Chaplains of their ministry, however, means that space is needed to offload and process feelings away from the demands of ministry. Pastoral supervision in groups or one-to-one away from the work is a key means to thriving and staying resilient.

Pastoral supervision is offered through various routes in Rochester Diocese:

Spiritual Accompaniment – Anna Chaplains are encouraged to work with the diocesan spirituality coordinator to find a spiritual accompanier with whom they meet regularly. Read more here.

Individual pastoral supervision – as mentioned above, in relation to Anna Chaplain and archdeaconry lead Sophie Sutherland, pastoral supervisors can be arranged and funded by a parish.

Chaplaincy mentoring – we have piloted appointing mentors to offer ongoing support to Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends; they are not Anna Chaplains themselves. Revd Christine Latham supports the Bromley hub, and her role is greatly valued. Her ministry skills and experience equip her well to fulfil a role which includes:

  • Attending local hub meetings and following up afterwards if there are needs

  • Talking with those exploring a calling to Anna Chaplaincy

  • Attending commissioning events to support new team members

  • Visiting Anna Chaplains in their parishes to observe and offer feedback as they develop their practice

  • Being available for one-to-one support by telephone or in-person

Diocesan Anna Chaplaincy lead Julia Burton-Jones is employed two days a week by the diocese to help with recruitment, training and support for the team. Since 2021, she has shared this role with archdeaconry leads. She knows each person and often picks up on training and supervisory needs, meaning she can plan events and facilitate networking to address these needs. She has a development role, building a structure of support for Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends.

Archdeaconry leads – each archdeaconry has two Anna Chaplains who have been commissioned as Anna Chaplaincy leads, an ordained Anna Chaplain working alongside a licensed lay minister. Their role is unpaid. They support Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends during vacancies, at ministry reviews and in offering one-to-one guidance and help as needed. They take a lead at hub meetings. Like mentors, they work with those exploring a calling to Anna Chaplaincy.

Hub meetings – Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends working across several deaneries meet regularly. These meetings have an element of pastoral and peer-to-peer supervision, alongside learning, theological reflection and prayer support.

Events and retreats – quiet days and afternoons provide space for rest, reflection and renewal. Christine is leading quiet afternoons during which she offers guided meditations and resources for craftwork and reading. These are held in places with peaceful outdoor space. Learning events for the Kent network focus on topics relevant to Anna Chaplaincy, often with an element of pastoral supervision through the facilitation of skilled practitioners, such as hospice chaplains leading sessions on end-of-life spiritual care.

As Anna Chaplaincy grows and matures, effective approaches to line management and pastoral supervision will be refined and strengthened. In the Anglican Church, through working with dioceses like Rochester, Canterbury, Exeter, Norwich, Portsmouth, Newcastle and Ely, which have diocese-wide projects, BRF will advance the professionalism and care with which Anna Chaplains and their teams are supported. A model of excellence will emerge which we hope will represent a gold standard of pastoral supervision.




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