Over 225 clergy gathered from around the conference for the annual Bishop’s Day Apart held Tuesday, February 20, 2018, at St. James UMC. This year’s day apart addressed a necessary topic: clergy mental health. Mr. Terry Real of REAL Relational Solutions from Boston, MA, was the guest speaker. Claire Bowen, who has worked closely with our conference since the assignment of Bishop David Graves, identified Real and after hearing him in person, felt he would be a relevant choice for this year’s gathering.
Bishop Graves welcomed Real and those in attendance and thanked St. James UMC for their hospitality. He touched on his personal experiences of trying to stay in ministry when he was not mentally at his best and attributed his success to therapy and covenant groups. Claire Bowen also welcomed Real and explained her personal journey with a child and finding how to best help her daughter through help from Real.
To begin the session, Real had the clergy take the Relational Life Institute evaluation that would help a person identify signs of depression. He noted that depression is on par with heart disease and tends to be labeled as a shame disease. Real pointed out that strength is knowing what your vulnerabilities are and working with them and said, "You take on the characteristics of the population you serve.”
He showed a clip of a counseling session where he was able to counsel a man, struggling in relationships, identify childhood traumatic experiences and how he helped him move forward. Real cited, “The biggest gift you can give your children is your recovery.”
Real also explained how to make a good apology through accountability, vulnerability and empathy and said, "Tone trumps content."
In the afternoon session Real walked the clergy group through the relationship grid to help identify how they handle their worst behaviors. It addresses how one takes sides, emphasizing grandiosity and shame, and how to listen to better impact those around you. The grid is a diagnostic tool the group can use with their laity, staff and their own personal relationships.
One of the most important points emphasized at the day apart was the need for clergy to help one another look for warning signs of trouble and the importance of covenant groups.
“Our day together certainly looked different than previous days apart,” said Bishop Graves. "As difficult and uncomfortable as the conversation about clergy mental health can be, it is a necessary discussion that must continue to happen. As a Bishop my heart breaks when I hear about a clergy person considering taking their life because they feel like there is no way to heal. Yesterday was just the beginning of doing everything I can do ensure clergy have training, resources and the help they need to be healthy and affective in their professional and personal lives.”
Click on the below links for archived video sessions. Click here to see photos from the event
. All photos by Luke Lucas