PORTLAND (AP) – A new pilot project sponsored by the Bangor Theological Seminary aims to create opportunities for ministers to get support and talk about the professional challenges they encounter in their congregations.

Pastoral Consultations for Clergy will provide support to ordained ministers by talking about their everyday stresses and the aftereffects of large-scale problems in congregations. Problems can range from professional isolation and burnout, and dealing with a decline in the number of parishioners, to embezzlement, misconduct and abuse of power.

“The expectations that we have of ourselves and others have of us can take over and cloud the picture,” Rev. Linwood Arnold of the United Methodist Church in Gorham said.

“And that’s where having others look at us from a distance gives us a perspective we would not have otherwise.”

The project is sponsored by Maine’s chapters of the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist.

If the project is successful over the next six months, it’s possible it will be expanded to other denominations.

The project will run for six months, with each group lasting a three-month period. The sessions will be small, allowing clergy members to openly communicate with one another about the problems they feel are rising in their communities.

“It’s one of the most difficult jobs that I know, the boundaries are fuzzy and people cast clergy in many different roles,” said the Rev. John Widdows, one of the project’s organizers.

Widdows, an Episcopal minister, says the job of being a pastor is becoming more difficult than ever.

Highly publicized scandals such as sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic church are on the extreme end of the problems churches face.

Smaller problems include dealing with difficult lay ministers, incorporating current events into church life, and maintaining a balance between church and personal life.

AP-ES-09-01-03 1129EDT



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