There is much controversy today about whether or not Jesus was married and who his support team was. It would have been unusual for a rabbi of the first century Semitic world to be unmarried. Whether married or not, it appears that Jesus drew much support from his Disciples and followers. And, it is quite apparent, that Jesus confided in God as if speaking to an ever-present parent. So whether a Unity minister is partnered or single (statistics say of the 604 member ministers reporting: 370 married, 210 single and 24 with significant other), I am quite certain that their first confidant, support and guide will be the living Presence of God. They never walk alone.
I began ministry despite propensity to extreme introversion. Spirit said I was to minister. Being an introvert has probably been the greatest influence in my choice to minister solo. I need a lot of time alone.
Friends: I started ministering with a study group in 1994 with my most trusted friends. They soon became my “disciples.” They stood by me and supported me until our center became a full-status church. One became my most trusted friend and confidant. I also have a sister, an Episcopal priest, who “sees” me. I have been in therapy on and off since my 30s but find that one or two close friends, who are willing to tell the truth and pray with me, are even more valuable.
Intimate Relationships: I have had intimate relationships while ministering but these individuals soon find that being “Mr. Shipley” is not the position they had envisioned. I do miss having that kind of intimate support a relationship provides, but not enough to have made space for it.
Colleagues: Spirit and I have always chosen our board presidents and our directors of operations. These have been supporters, friends, mentors and coaches. Spirit chose well! Our consultant guide from the Transformational Experience was invaluable.
Ministers: A regular sub-regional ministers’ gathering (Surprise! We all have the same church!), prayer partners, regional and national conferences also help.
Outside of church: One of the greatest supports I have in my life is my horse. My horse is my teacher, my muse, my grounding, my health, my exercise, my love and my joy. My horse helps create balance in my life. Without my horse, I am sure I would have burned out long ago.
I, personally, cannot imagine doing ministry with a spouse. I am amazed by those who do and do it very well. I honor you.
True, I am an introvert and need a lot of time alone, but I have rarely felt alone. Spirit, friends, ministers and my horse are there: I never walk alone.