Anam Cara, Soul Friend: Collegial Clergy Communities

Anam Cara is a Gaelic phrase meaning “soul friend.” CareNet is excited about a new partnership with the Center for Congregational Health to bring clergy “soul friends” together.

Anam Cara is a way of practicing pastoral ministry that invites relationship, supports accountability, and provides a safe place to share in a collegial community. It embodies a shift from seeing ministers as working solo to instead identifying as pastors in a peer community. It is about soul friends with whom ministers share the passion of common calling.[1]

Mahan Siler, the founder of Anam Cara gropus, reflected on his own experience as a pastor and realized there were four principles that sustained him through difficult times: practicing community, practicing theological reflection and discernment, practicing leadership and practicing soul nurturance. He then developed a year-long program for clergy around these principles.

CareNet and Mahan began a relationship to support and develop Anam Cara groups a few years ago. We trained 12-15 facilitators for these clergy, not therapy, communities of 6-8 ministers each. They begin each year with a two-day retreat. Then they created a covenant to agree to spend a full day once a month for a year designed around the practices. In the weeks between the monthly meetings, the group member connect in some way – email, phone calls, dining out. They end the year with a closing retreat.

CareNet has experimented some with Mahan’s model due to time constraints on ministers and financial limitations in congregations with recent budget cuts. And while we will continue to offer these traditional Anam Cara groups, we have now entered a relationship with the Center for Congregational Health to develop new Anam Cara groups.

Ministers groups through CCH that have already been meeting for some time have a natural progression into a CareNet Anam Cara group.  We would also like to help coordinate ministers who are looking for a group to begin their first steps with CCH.

Please share with ministers you already know – your own, your friends, your peers – this great gift of support and community. Connect them with Beth Kennett, Network Coordinator for Healthy Faith Communities at CCH, to be involved in a group. Offer to pay for funds needed to belong to one of these communities. Encourage your ministers to take care of themselves.

Contact Beth Kennett, or 336.716.9722, for initial clergy groups or Bryan Hatcher, or 336-716-0858, for Anam Cara groups.

[1] Anam Cara: Collegial Clergy Communities by Mahan Siler.

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