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Reform Magazine | September 29, 2020

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There is faith in a union

There is faith in a union

Unions offer vital support and advice to ministers, says Chris Wilson

I love the ministry and all that it brings. I’ve been a minister for 17 years and serve a local church in Northern Ireland. Ministry is deeply rewarding and I’m greatly blessed by it. I adore it, but it also can be at times very difficult, very challenging, very pressurised. So my advice to a new minister, looking to serve God as a sincere disciple of Christ for the next 20 or 30 years, is: You would be wise to be in union membership. It will give you a second source of support. It will give you access to experienced colleagues across a range of traditions, and it should support you in a way which is respectful to your calling.

I’ve had a lifetime’s experience of trade union membership, since the age of 17, 40 years ago. Then I joined Community, a union that has a nationwide faith workers’ branch, nine years ago, because it genuinely understands people of faith. It’s the recognised union for NSPCC and Childline staff, so it has experience of representing members who have a strong caring motivation. Four years ago, I became Branch Secretary. It is an unpaid role, which I do enthusiastically in my spare time, because I believe it’s really important for clergy to support each other, to offer fellowship and solidarity. The vast majority of our work is what the union would call low-level casework but what I would call advice, guidance, compassion and support.

The branch offers friendship and encouragement from outside of your own tradition. We are a diverse bunch: Presbyterians, Methodists, Church of England, members of the Jewish community (organised separately) and at least one imam. We meet quarterly online, which is great fun. Especially in this period of Covid, that has been profoundly valuable. We support those who by the calling of their faith are there to support others…

Chris Wilson is Minister of Moneyreagh Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, County Down, and Secretary of Community Faith Workers’ Branch. He was talking to Stephen Tomkins

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This is an extract from an article published in the September 2020 edition of Reform

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