Following the recent decline in stipendiary clergy numbers in the Church of England and the consequent amalgamation of numerous rural benefices, enormous demands have been placed on many rural clergy. Potential stressors include ‘overextension’ and ‘inadequate resources’, which can cause poor work-related psychological health. Folkman and Lazarus (1988), whose work is firmly rooted in the ‘secular’ psychological tradition, contend that in order to survive in times of stress, people need to employ coping practices whereby they can ‘manage’ the personal and/or environmental stressors which ‘tax’ or ‘exceed’ their personal resources. Pargament (1997), however, believes that religious beliefs and religious experience are also important, and he suggests that the psychology of religion and coping ‘bridges a deep psychological tradition of helping people take care of what they can in times of stress with a rich religious tradition of helping people accept their limitations and look beyond themselves for assistance in troubling times’ (p. 9).
The present study examines the coping strategies of a sample of 722 Church of England rural clergy who are responsible for three or more rural churches, following their completion of the ‘RCOPE Measure of Religious Coping’ (Pargament, Koenig and Perez, 2000). The data produced suggest that the religious coping strategies most frequently used by rural clergy in multi-church benefices, are ‘benevolent religious reappraisal’ (to find ‘meaning’), ‘collaborative religious coping’ and ‘active religious surrender’ (to gain ‘control’), ‘religious purification/forgiveness’, ‘spiritual connection’ and ‘marking religious boundaries’ (to gain comfort and closeness to God) and ‘seeking support from clergy and church members’ and ‘religious helping’ (to gain ‘intimacy with others and closeness to God’).
The data demonstrate that rural clergy certainly draw on images of God that may promote healthy responses to significant stressors, but that they also employ those that may be detrimental to effective coping, and it is suggested that the provision by the church, of educational programmes focusing on religious coping strategies, might lead to the enhancement of work-related psychological health among rural clergy.
Robbins, Francis, and Rutledge (1997) documented the personality profile of Church of England clergymen and clergywomen prior to the ordination of the first women to the priesthood in 1994, drawing on Eysenck’s three-dimensional model of personality. They found that the personality profiles of clergymen and clergywomen were indistinguishable. The present paper reports a comparable study conducted in 2004 among 182 clergywomen and 540 clergymen serving in similar parochial posts in order to examine whether the ordination of women to the priesthood had impacted the overall personality profile of Anglican clergy. The data suggest that little change had taken place between the two cohorts of clergy studied. Once again clergywomen and clergymen appeared to be formed in the same image.