By The Rev’d David Browne:
Two years ago, I was feeling a big lost. A bit meh…and tired. Sometimes big things in life get me down in a moment. However, more often I find that many little cumulating disappointments can weigh me down over a long period of time and one day I wake up to find myself in a hole I need help to dig myself out of. That’s how I was feeling a couple of years back.
Thankfully God is good, and He sends gifts in many different guises. Floundering in my lostness, I got an unexpected email from Belinda Macarthur in the Parishes and Other Mission Agencies Commission (PMC) inviting me to be part of a professional supervision pilot project. Initially, this sounded more like a curse than a gift. I didn’t need more things to do, or more people to meet, and I certainly didn’t want to pay someone to analyse my emotional junk. I wanted to keep it to myself thank you very much!
But there was a silver lining to Belinda’s email that helped me begin to see the gift on my doorstep. The PMC was offering to pay for a supervisor to meet with me regularly during the course of the project. Suddenly the financial excuse fluttered out the window and I began to think that a professional supervisor might be just what I needed.
Scrolling through the options of pilot project supervisors was a bit like trying to figure out whom to vote for on election day. Sure, they looked qualified, but would they really care or be able to help? I picked a supervisor who lived close by who seemed super qualified and up for the job. After a few back-and-forth emails, I found myself waiting for my first session. Would my supervisor be able to help me out of the hole I was in? Would they be able to help me feel free and healthy again or was I about to meet with a “Kumbaya-singer” for a talkfest?
Our first conversation was awkward. I felt bad for oversharing, but my supervisor was professional and kept me on topic. They spoke into my professional, physical, spiritual and mental health, which all relate to the functioning of my ministry, and I never felt judged or looked down on. Walking away from my first professional supervision session, I felt lighter, stronger and empowered to begin climbing out of the hole I was in. I was calmer at home, more settled in my vocation as a priest, and happier overall.
I guess the single key learning for me over a year’s worth of monthly professional supervision sessions is how important it is to have someone you can talk to about anything. So often in life there are topics and aspects of our lives that we can’t touch with certain people for good reason. But with a supervisor you can lay your ministry out and let God help you make sense of it and then put it back together.
Both my wife, The Rev’d Zoë Browne, and I now have our own professional supervisors. I’ve started paying for the sessions myself and each one is a priceless gift from God. Like with any sort of care, we’ve realised that paying for a prevention is better than seeking a cure.
We all need help to grow in life and faith and this part of my ministry journey has helped me understand the true value of professional supervision.
First published on anglican focus on 1 November 2021.