Clergy Shop Talk

Fri 12 June 2015

When guests make a booking for a programme event or private retreat, they are always asked to sign up to our House Rules. The key ones for the purpose of this article are 

  • No clergy shop talk
  • Respect the privacy and space of others

The rules were established on the very first 12,000-mile Service we ran back in November 1987 and over the years they have been one of the most appreciated parts of our ministry, frequently mentioned by guests on their feedback forms as being a crucial part of what made their time at Sheldon work well for them. However, implementing the rules with grace and balance is often one of the most challenging things we do. Some guests take to the rules like a duck to water, most find them a little uncomfortable to start with but settle in and enjoy them within a day or so, while a very few really struggle with them. The feedback is that occasionally the rules are policed a little over-zealously and sometimes they are under-policed by the hosting team. Occasionally someone's retreat is really compromised by an insensitive or intrusive fellow guest. Sometimes there is genuine confusion over what we mean by "clergy shop talk", sometimes one guest would be quite unaware of another guest's privacy needs, and some people just think rules are there to be broken anyway. 

In fact we do take them very seriously and obviously the whole thing only works if everybody is on board. As a Community we recently had a "back to basics" session and came up with a "Help with House Rules" sheet to put in guest rooms. You can see the full text next to this article. We've tried to set out the reasons for the rules very simply and clearly and give some practical guidance on what's good to talk about as well as what to avoid. Hope you like our new "no clergy shop talk" road sign logo too!

Do use the comment section below to let us know what you think. This is such a precious part of our ministry and needs constantly refining.

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What's your experience of the Sheldon House Rules?

Deborah Scott-Bromley - Jun 14, 2018

This is really reassuring. However, I would suggest that the Borderline category is a bit too generous as "straying" could very easily happen.

Dawn Jewson - Nov 16, 2017

My first visit and I really appreciated the House Rules (made even more evident when someone inadvertently said the word 'sermon' and I froze!). However, would you consider dropping the word 'clergy' and/or replacing it with 'church' in the phrase 'No clergy shop talk'? People who were not clergy didn't always think it applied to them, and I got confused a couple of times when I was pulled up for talking about stuff like Christian courses which were not specifically clergy-related. It's a fab rule and you've done a lot of work on refining it, but I'd love my blushes to be spared if possible please!

Sheldon Team - Jul 15, 2016

Dear Mary - that's because you've been here on the Hub working parties when we're doing nothing other than talking shop!

Mary Hawes - Jun 13, 2016

Did these ever get into the bedrooms? I don't recall seeing them the last couple of times I've been done and I think they are REALLY helpful.

Joanna Elliott - Feb 10, 2016

As a hospital chaplain I would welcome discussion of visiting and minstering to the sick and dying and sharing about health issues to be out of bounds. I often find when I try to take an emotional and spiritual break that these kind of conversations are difficult to avoid.

Carole Christensen - Sep 06, 2015

The 'help with house rules' is excellent ... hopefully it will help to prevent the difficulty we experience at times in trying to find a way of opting out of responding to personal questions without having to explain that they shouldn't be asked.

Many thanks

Sheldon Team - Aug 29, 2015

From guest feedback "The no shop talk and no ministering to fellow guest rules are such a blessing - please do keep up the struggle! It is so important for clergy to have a proper retreat and not get distracted. Thank you!"

Lesley Johnson - Jul 14, 2015

We live in an age where we are often defined by what job we do, how much we earn or own. Individuals then start defining themselves by these same standards. Well done Sheldon Community for redressing the balance, reminding us all that having 'No shop talk' allows us to open up the question....who am I without all these attachments? A great leveller.

Peter Cornish - Jul 14, 2015

I think that's helpful and I would hope that most people would appreciate the guidance because one person's understanding of 'clergy shop talk' might be a tad narrower than others'. With the Christian world being so small (comparatively speaking) it could be so easy for a thoughtless comment or probing question to undo the healing which we all need from time to time.

Daphne Preece - Jul 13, 2015

Really like the new way of expressing the 'No shop talk' rule. I think people will find it much easier to understand - both how to apply it and the reasons behind it. Well done!

Sarah Horsman - Jul 13, 2015

Yes Jenny it does apply on Family Holiday weeks and even harder to get right on those ones.

Yes Michael - that one slipped through the proof reading net!

Revd Preb Pam Cuff - Jul 13, 2015

I know I am retired/PTO now, but your House Rules have always been valued - in good times and in bad. For many of us in whatever form of ministry, it is instinctive to respond to someone's need over and above our own. [in the hard times probably part of the reason we have ended up with you for TLC time!] To know everyone is on the same footing, and following the same rules - with understanding - is an important factor in what Sheldon's specialised ministry has to offer. Not to have any expectations imposed on one for a few days is 'salve' itself! Safe space, and prayer blessed!

Michael Jacobs - Jul 13, 2015

4th line of Help with House Rules should read 'designed'.

Alice - Jul 13, 2015

Thank you so much! this is so helpful and should avoid some of the situations I have encountered and at the same time take some of the heat away from you guys having to police it so much. i think some people genuinely did not twig the nature of shop talk. Wonderful.

Jenny Holden - Jul 13, 2015

Thank you. I found that very helpful. Having grown up in a tradition where the minister/leader of the church knew what God was saying to the church, I have found it difficult , as a volunteer, to remind guests about the "No shop talk " rule. As a matter of interest, does this rule still apply on Family Holiday weeks??

What's your experience of the Sheldon House Rules?

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