Thursday, 5 November 2009

The "Fraternal"

A colleague asked my opinion on minister's fraternals. Since student days I have been involved in a number of different fraternals and, unfortunately, my experience hasn't been great. Maybe my expectations are unrealistic but I haven't found these groups terribly supportive. It may well be a gender thing but I'd like to feel that the fraternal is a place for ministers to let their guard down, share some vulnerability. A safe space. I have formal monthly supervision, so it's not that I'm looking for that kind of support but it would be valuable to have some kind of fellowship and supportive network. As a presbytery chaplain I used to organise ministers' retreats and the ambience created in those allowed for more honest sharing but it would be good to share in something locally more regularly. In spite of all this, I will continue to support the fraternal. My optimism that it can be quite different drives me to stay with it and, hopefully ring subtle, slow change. I'd love to hear how others experience these networks.


Danny said...

My experiences (although limited) of 'formal' fraternals have been much the same! I'm not sure how far you can go in creating a 'safe place' with colleagues. I have trust issues and do not share my 'vulnerabilities' easily (partly because my experience is that ministers like to talk... and I would always have the fear that what is shared in the fraternal would not stay in the fraternal!)

I get together informally once a month with three male friends (all fairly recently ordained). This works well... its small... we cross presbytery boundaries and the trust is building. I don't think gender is an issue if you all want the same things from the group.

I am interested in your monthly supervision... how and where and with who you arranged this. After 10 months in the 'job' I think I would benefit from this!! If you don't mind sharing the basic details my email is

liz said...

Danny, that's where my optimism get the better of me. I keep hoping it will be different. Will send you details of supervision - a life saver and worth every penny.

Mike Peatman said...

I suspect te problem is that the culture is 'fraternal' - ie formed by masculine culture and expectations. Not sure that changing the gender-specific terminology would sorve anything quickly, but it wouldbe a start.

It is a real shame that peer support from colleagues so often doesn't work. The good thing about being a chaplain at Uni was that we had an ecumenical team which I felt much more confident with. Perhaps we could learn something from other settings.

liz said...

Mike, when I was hospital chaplain, there was much more support from the other chaplains of other denominations, so the ecumenical and, perhaps non parochial setting does seem to work better for support networks. Perhaps if the name were to be changed to something like area support network, the purpose of the group might be clearer, not sure.

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