I discovered pastoral supervision quite late in my ministerial career. I dearly wish I had had the benefit of it much earlier in my ministry.  The opportunity that it gives to step aside from the pressures and challenges of ministry to take time to reflect and renew your heart for ministry, revisit your sense of calling and take stock of everything that your work involves – is invaluable! It definitely enhanced my effectiveness and resilience as a minister and helped me to make the most of my skills and opportunities.

After 11 years in ministry when all was going well for me with Beath and Cowdenbeath North Church of Scotland, I was brought up short with health issues. I had a heart bypass in 2012 followed by a complicated recovery so that it was over two years before I was fully fit again – and by that time my confidence for ministry had suffered a serious decline!

Nevertheless, in 2015, I was appointed as a chaplain in the former Dunfermline Presbytery and got involved in working on a plan to support ministers in their ministries and, together with another eleven ministers, we discovered pastoral supervision. At a presbytery conference of ministers exploring the options for ministerial support we discussed the possibilities: coaching, spiritual accompaniment, counselling. But none of these seemed universally applicable. It was Gavin Elliot, of the then Ministries Council, who suggested pastoral supervision as something that could be offered to all.

After a trial period of three sessions led by a facilitator who introduced pastoral supervision to us very effectively, convincing even the most sceptical in the group, Dunfermline Presbytery established a pastoral supervision group, comprising almost all of the original group, which met around 8 times a year. It proved to be a way that brought closer relationships with colleagues and a wider appreciation of each other’s ministries.  After a couple of years pastoral supervision was extended to three smaller groups of four or five. With the move to Fife Presbytery the practice of offering group supervision was continued and now includes all in ordained ministries, including OLMs and Deacons.

For me that group helped me to recover my resilience – to rediscover that inner drive that came with my call to ministry, to get fully back to serving God and my congregation to the best of my ability and enjoying the challenges of church and parish life again. I so valued the role of pastoral supervision in the latter years of my ministry that, following my retirement in 2017, I undertook a diploma course in pastoral supervision and went on to become an accredited pastoral supervisor so that I could offer supervision to others, knowing the valuable help it had been to me.

These days ASCEND offers the option of individual pastoral supervision to all ministers and details of qualified supervisors can be found on the ASCEND website. Currently three Presbyteries: Edinburgh and West Lothian, Glasgow and Fife, offer group supervision – though it might be hoped that other presbyteries may follow suit. Both approaches have their benefits. Individual supervision offers a one-to-one confidential space where the supervisee’s calling and ministry can be explored in full. Group supervision adds the confidential support and wisdom of a peer group – facilitated by a trained supervisor.

Pastoral supervision gives the opportunity to connect with a pastoral supervisor, or a facilitated peer group, to reflect on the past, present and future in order to respond with insight to the opportunities and challenges of ministry. It is enjoyable as well as encouraging and helpful. I would thoroughly recommend it to all in ministry.

Rev David Redmayne