The happiest in the world?

There is an interesting piece on Forbes Magazine’s website about a piece of research which has come up with the finding that, in the US at least, clergy appear to be those who have the greatest job satisfaction for amongst many other groups, they reported themselves to be the happiest of all.

I think it is interesting to say the least though I think it raises more questions than answers. Was I, as I sat a week ago amongst the clergy of the diocese at the annual clergy conference, amongst the happiest of them all? I’m not so sure about that though there was much hilarity after hours. We didn’t even get onto telling one another funeral stories either, or not whilst I was awake anyway.

It raises the question of whether I am happy. And of whether happiness and satisfaction are the same thing. Although I have a suspicion when I’m with other clergy that they may not be the happiest bunch in the whole wide world, I think that they are generally incredibly committed to living out in some way or another the promises that they have made in life. Sometimes the patterns of the institution don’t help. Sometimes they do.

Whilst we are on this topic, do go and look at a pic of the longest serving Church of Scotland minister, who has just died at the age of 105. There’s happiness in that old face, of that I’m certain.

I think that it is a curious fact that clergy come out with a high happiness quotient as I also think very many of them would come out high in a “frustrated with the institution that I work with” measurement.

Somehow though the great moments generally keep one bouncing along in the face of the wider frustrations that are very real for anyone working in the church.

When I think back to the times I’ve been most happy in the last few weeks they are generally more to do with people than institutions.

  • Baptising a couple of babies, each from international families whilst the congregation, itself gathered from the four corners of the world, surrounded them with prayers, compassion and loving-kindness.
  • Anointing someone at the end of life, for whom little else could be done. Knowing with certainty that death was coming. Knowing with certainty that human life matters as much as every hard laboured breath. Knowing that sometimes gentleness and kindness are the only tools of the gospel that matter.
  • Sharing in the wedding of a couple obviously in love. Absolutely confident that I’m in the joy business.

All moments from the last couple of weeks. None of them, alas, at the clergy conference and interestingly, falling into the birth, death, marriage pattern of life.

Do you experience clergy to be happy? Or satisfied? Or miserable?
If you are ordained, which bits supply the joy that carries you through?