Church of England Vicar Shortage

No-one seems to be making vicars any more so we've got a bit of a shortage, it seems.

We're in a bizarre position. We're one of these initiatives which means we're outside the normal parish structure - one of the remaining FE*s. And the bishop has nicked our vicar. He's now been given the job of overseeing pioneer ministry in the area rather than actually doing any himself, as best as I can gather.

That means he has to distance himself from us lot, which gives us a bit of a problem.

The Diocese's idea appears to be that we should be lay led. However, and perhaps unusually for a FE, we're very Eucharistically centred. And of course the CofE requires that the Eucharist be presided over by an ordained priest. So we would be looking at RentaVic**. On an ongoing basis, not just for an interregnum. Add to that that this is in a period where Covid has buggered up our meeting together so that we're over Zoom for everything, which has itself led to some attrition of numbers. We've not been asked whether we feel up to lay leadership - we don't. We're a right collection of oddballs and misfits, refugees from not fitting into the mainstream congregations.

Anyway, the reason for bringing our tale of woe here is to try to understand what is happening which has brought us to this pass. The driving force seems to be the lack of ordained ministers meaning they're now spread very thin so they're clawing them back from places like us. But I'm trying to get inside the mindset in the Diocese of having lay-led congregations in a tradition that revolves around the sacraments and requires ordained priests to administer them. I have my suspicions but would prefer informed insights.

*Fresh Expressions. Not up for a slagging off of the concept today.
**Borrowing spare clergy from wherever when magic words are needed.
«13456711

Comments

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    In 2010 we were being told to expect a 20-25% reduction in the number of stipendiary clergy by 2020. We were also warned to expect that the impact would be greater in the north of England which has struggled for some years to find people to fill posts.

    A major reason for the reduction is the retirement of the baby boomer generation which is not being matched by the number of new clergy being ordained - even though, AIUI, there is a small but steady rise in the numbers being ordained each year. At one level this is straightforwardly an issue of demographics - even if the same proportion of a population age group is being ordained, if the age group is smaller the number ordained will be smaller.

    In the context I am familiar with, we are working at this ecumenically (it's not just a C of E issue), forming churches into 'Mission Communities' and seeking to increase the sense that church is the business and responsibility of all, not just of the ordained person. It's not a rapid process, and the culture change from 'ask the vicar' to 'it's my responsibility as well' is an issue which was identified over 30 years ago, and still hasn't been achieved.

    In the churches I am aware of it has led to less frequent communion, and to more lay-led worship, although it needs to be not just about what happens on Sunday, and more about a genuinely collective and corporate sense of responsibility in the whole church community for the mission of the Church.

    If you want some numbers to go with this you could try searching 'Church of England Clergy Numbers' or Church of England Ministry Statistics. Regular reports are being produced (2018, 2019, a longer view)
  • Don't assume there is but one diocesan mindset. You may well find that the bishop thinks one thing, the AD another, and the Parsonages Board has a third.

    Rather than looking at how to get a priest, the first thing I'd recommend is to find out what the plan is for the vicarage. If they intend to sell or let-out long term then, regardless of what TPTB say, the intention is no priest for you.

    Next, look at neighbouring parishes and see if any are a good fit with your own to share a priest.

    Meanwhile you need the PCC to set up a working party to quickly draw up a wish list of what you require from a priest. For example, do you want them to lead baptism and marriage preparation? Confirmation classes? Once you have done that you'll be in a position to ask about the possibility of a House-for-Duty priest.

    My own parish has HfD and if you send me a PM I'll be happy to talk you through potential pitfalls.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Is a Eucharist of pre-consecrated elements a possibility?
  • Not an answer, but I recall seeing this (may be behind a paywall): https://tinyurl.com/yxufhnc3

    And it's not just the CofE. See this from Monmouth Diocese: https://tinyurl.com/yydt3b65
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited January 29
    Gee D wrote: »
    Is a Eucharist of pre-consecrated elements a possibility?

    I think that's discouraged.

    @TheOrganist we don't have a parish; we exist outside the structure. There is a vicarage of sorts and yes, that's going. We know what the plan is regarding having a priest.

    I understand the problem - we're small. Around half a dozen to possibly ten adults on a very good day. It's hard to justify a stipend to support us. I don't think anyone is denying the problem, but we are struggling to understand what the solution we're being offered is. It's already meant Mrs Karlt and I are offering to effectively run the service once a month - it involves logging onto WorkOfThePeople.org and showing the video and using the discussion notes to get some thinking going. And that's me who believes in God on Mondays, Wednesdays and alternate Sundays...

    And there's no real solution to the Eucharist issue. We really don't want RentaVic... most of us are theologically in a place where it's only CofE rules requiring ordination to preside. There's talk of actually going independent to resolve that one.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Not an answer, but I recall seeing this (may be behind a paywall): https://tinyurl.com/yxufhnc3

    And it's not just the CofE. See this from Monmouth Diocese: https://tinyurl.com/yydt3b65

    Those are interesting.

    As I say, no-one's denying the problem. I think the idea of being part of a wider group of congregations sharing clergy could work; we do need someone who can get some familiarity with ours as we are somewhat odd.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited January 29
    Many Bishops do seem to discourage Communion by Extension, as a public substitution for the full Eucharist, unless permission is sought first.

    ISTM that @KarlLB's group might do well to explore the possibility of working with other churches, oddness notwithstanding! There are some real oddball priests out there...

    One problem may be the timing of Sunday worship - if it's in the morning, that usually clashes with other churches, but if it's in the afternoon (say) it might be possible to find 2 or 3 clergy (perhaps semi-retired or HfD elsewhere) who would be able to offer some degree of assistance, and, importantly, pastoral continuity.

    One of Our Place's neighbours, faced with closure some years ago, managed to arrange a rota of 3 or 4 retired priests, who between them provided a weekly Parish Communion whilst the laity got on with the rest of the work! The church now has its own stipendiary priest, shared with another parish nearby.

  • From out with the Cofe but a church with just the same problem and proposed solutions, I would suggest that @KarlLB and his congregation should think seriously about going independent. I think the days of the big denominations are passing. They were right for Christendom, but we don’t live in Christendom now. As the structures shrink it is the congregations like KarlLB’s which will either be left most alone anyway or which will come under pressure to conform.

    In my opinion, the Church across the UK in 50 years’ time will consist of many smaller groups, loosely associated, perhaps. It will be very different, and the buildings will be left as monuments to the past. But it might be how the kingdom of God looks for the 21st century in these isles.

    Also, if you want to read a positive take on such things, get hold of a copy of Steve Aisthorpe’s book “Rewilding the Church” and read it carefully.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Do you need a full time cleric? It seems a bit of an indulgence when you are so few. Maybe midweek eucharist delivered by a friendly local vicar who might also be agreeable to keeping a friendly eye on you.
    Looking at the FE website it would seem to be about mission. Maybe you are being encouraged by the bishop to do a bit of self-assessment as to your missionary success?
  • The lack of income in the whole C of E for the last year has escalated the situation I think. The model they were using was unsustainable, given that so few people now attend and contribute financially. The intention was to ordain more people and there has been a big push over the last few years, even to the extent of training young people who would not be mature enough to take on a parish once ordained, and of pushing people into it who were called to serve as laity.

    But the model needed to be rewritten in any case, imo. For too long, ordained ministers have had responsibilities heaped upon them, from a pile of administration and statistics to leading others (often with little or no training) to fundraising, to requirements concerning building maintenance and graveyards, as well as the preaching and teaching and leading worship and pastoral care of people in wider and wider geographical areas - a few of whom may gather in one of multiple church buildings on a Sunday.

    Was all of this what they were called to do? Probably not. Many have left, some have had breakdowns.

    On the other hand, there have been lay people called to serve in various ways, including all of the above- and (occasionally) some called to preside over the Eucharist - and ready to do it without being paid, but mostly overlooked or ignored or looked down upon over the years as if they are inferior to ordained priests. I’ve even seen the same attitude expressed toward self-supporting ordained ministers.

    The ‘Kingdom Calling’ C of E report last year spells it out. The church needs to organise itself, to stop the ‘us and them’, train everyone according to our calling, and work together to ‘be’ church.

    If a lay person is willing, trained and called to take oversight of a particular parish, thank God for that! Embrace them and work with them. Failing that, be ready for more church buildings to close, and for access to a stipendiary minister to require travel.
  • Raptor Eye wrote: »

    If a lay person is willing, trained and called to take oversight of a particular parish, thank God for that! Embrace them and work with them.

    And, I would say, ordain them. You don't need a sacerdotal view of the priesthood to recognise that a person in such a role should be ordained, whether they're stipendiary or not.

    Up here communion by extension is an accepted part of worship in the more remote parts of the province, but there was also some debate over whether the tradition of the "mass priest" - ordained but licenced only to celebrate and not to preach or lead a parish - should be revived.

    With regard to @KarlLB 's problem, if there were someone in the congregation sufficiently interested and who felt called to do so there might be room for someone to seek ordination as an OLM (thought the timescale on achieving that is not favourable). There's also the possibility, given the apparent availability of a vicarage, of exploring a house for duty post.
  • Raptor Eye wrote: »

    If a lay person is willing, trained and called to take oversight of a particular parish, thank God for that! Embrace them and work with them.

    And, I would say, ordain them. You don't need a sacerdotal view of the priesthood to recognise that a person in such a role should be ordained, whether they're stipendiary or not.

    Up here communion by extension is an accepted part of worship in the more remote parts of the province, but there was also some debate over whether the tradition of the "mass priest" - ordained but licenced only to celebrate and not to preach or lead a parish - should be revived.

    With regard to @KarlLB 's problem, if there were someone in the congregation sufficiently interested and who felt called to do so there might be room for someone to seek ordination as an OLM (thought the timescale on achieving that is not favourable). There's also the possibility, given the apparent availability of a vicarage, of exploring a house for duty post.

    Why ordain them, if they’re not called to ordination?
  • Closet DruidCloset Druid Shipmate Posts: 35
    In a Team Ministry of four parishes just over the border in the next diocese, the two Team Vicars retired at the beginning of 2020 and the Team Rector retired at the end of that year. The diocese concerned has no intention of replacing the Team Vicars until a new Rector is appointed which could take anything up to a year or more, leaving no clergy cover at all for all four parish churches and two chapels of ease. There could be financial issues here, if no one is doing the job then we don't have to pay out, but keep the quota (or whatever it is called) still being paid.

    Though there are a few retired clergy in the area, there are none available to help out with Eucharists and occasional offices. One gentleman has been persuaded by higher authority (his wife) to step back from things because of ill health and another cleric is fighting the big C. Such is the situation!

    Mrs CD has volunteered our services (one priest and one Reader) to help out if needed in these four parishes, but any response, apart from a request from one of the chapels of ease to lead a monthly service, waits to be seen.

    As far as ready and willing helpers are concerned, there are fair number of Readers who have received theological training and who should be able to step into the breach and help keep congregations alive and running.
  • Raptor Eye wrote: »

    If a lay person is willing, trained and called to take oversight of a particular parish, thank God for that! Embrace them and work with them.

    I might be missing the point, but why should the person able to celebrate communion also be the person to have oversight of a parish (or in this particular context, of a worshipping community)? Without wanting to endorse the idea of rent-a-vicar as explained above, might a model to explore here be of the laity running the community (whether collectively through a church council, or individually through an elected/appointed leader) while someone else does the things that only an ordained member of the church can do? If nothing else, it's a way of splitting the load so that no one is overwhelmed by responsibility.

  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited January 29
    I'm sure that sort of arrangement is to be found in many parishes, especially those with multiple churches.

    Part of Our Place's parish now comes under a *Bishop's Mission Order* - it's an area of new housing/retail development, still being built, and which also covers parts of two other parishes. The Team Leader is a licensed Lay Minister, but there is a semi-retired priest in the Team, and she is the one who celebrates their monthly Eucharist. Everything else is lay-led.

    IIRC, the Team is allowed to celebrate Baptisms of people within their area, and the priest would no doubt be responsible for that service, too.

    (All the BMO Team's services and activities are *online* at the moment - they have no premises of their own).

    I wonder to what extent the Vicar shortage might be ameliorated by the probable closure of many C of E churches, post-Covid? A friend who works in Moonbase (let the reader understand) reckons that, over the next year or so, there will be a great number of (proposed) redundancies and closures, along with amalgamation of parishes, and so on.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    I bet there will not be a shortage of Bishops
  • Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Raptor Eye wrote: »

    If a lay person is willing, trained and called to take oversight of a particular parish, thank God for that! Embrace them and work with them.

    And, I would say, ordain them. You don't need a sacerdotal view of the priesthood to recognise that a person in such a role should be ordained, whether they're stipendiary or not.

    Up here communion by extension is an accepted part of worship in the more remote parts of the province, but there was also some debate over whether the tradition of the "mass priest" - ordained but licenced only to celebrate and not to preach or lead a parish - should be revived.

    With regard to @KarlLB 's problem, if there were someone in the congregation sufficiently interested and who felt called to do so there might be room for someone to seek ordination as an OLM (thought the timescale on achieving that is not favourable). There's also the possibility, given the apparent availability of a vicarage, of exploring a house for duty post.

    Why ordain them, if they’re not called to ordination?

    I'm struggling with the distinction between a calling to leading the worship and pastoral care of a Christian community and a calling to ordination.
  • It's the saying of the Magick Bits, I think.

    You have to be especially Called and Chosen* to say the Magick Bits - any Tom, Dick, or Harriet can do the rest...

    (*and, in some circles, have certain specific genitalia. Apologies for the sudden ripe aroma round here).
  • Fawkes Cat wrote: »
    I might be missing the point, but why should the person able to celebrate communion also be the person to have oversight of a parish (or in this particular context, of a worshipping community)? Without wanting to endorse the idea of rent-a-vicar as explained above, might a model to explore here be of the laity running the community (whether collectively through a church council, or individually through an elected/appointed leader) while someone else does the things that only an ordained member of the church can do? If nothing else, it's a way of splitting the load so that no one is overwhelmed by responsibility.

    As I understood from Karl's post, he has two problems:

    1. The challenge of getting an ordained body to be present at his services, in order to preside at communion. Preferably the same ordained body, with some kind of a relationship with his community.
    2. The challenge of finding someone who feels competent to provide pastoral care to his "band of oddballs and misfits" - as none of his fellow oddballs feel able to do that.

    Simple economics tells you that employing a full-time person to minister to a dozen people isn't going to happen. (Acknowledging that a parish priest has the cure of souls of all in the parish, not just those that turn up on a Sunday, and also acknowledging that Karl isn't a parish, what does the C of E think the ratio of active parishioners to clergy should be? How many people can an individual priest actually minister to?
  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    edited January 29
    Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Raptor Eye wrote: »

    If a lay person is willing, trained and called to take oversight of a particular parish, thank God for that! Embrace them and work with them.

    And, I would say, ordain them. You don't need a sacerdotal view of the priesthood to recognise that a person in such a role should be ordained, whether they're stipendiary or not.

    Up here communion by extension is an accepted part of worship in the more remote parts of the province, but there was also some debate over whether the tradition of the "mass priest" - ordained but licenced only to celebrate and not to preach or lead a parish - should be revived.

    With regard to @KarlLB 's problem, if there were someone in the congregation sufficiently interested and who felt called to do so there might be room for someone to seek ordination as an OLM (thought the timescale on achieving that is not favourable). There's also the possibility, given the apparent availability of a vicarage, of exploring a house for duty post.

    Why ordain them, if they’re not called to ordination?

    I'm struggling with the distinction between a calling to leading the worship and pastoral care of a Christian community and a calling to ordination.

    I would say that a calling to the priesthood is something deeper, and less able to be put into words, more of a ‘knowing’ rather than being specifically related to tasks.

    Many lay people are called to lead worship, and/or to preach and/or to teach, and/or to provide pastoral care, and/or I would argue to preside over the Eucharist, baptise, and/or to take funerals - as well as some being called to do administration, flowers, building maintenance, etc within the church - but the latter are not expected to have been ordained.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    It's not only priests who are ordained, though. It seems to me that the RC model for the permanent diaconate where permanent deacons usually have day jobs but still have an important liturgical and ministerial role within the parish would be an ideal fit here if a visiting/non-stipendiary priest could cover the Eucharist. And deacons are just as ordained as priests are, it's not simply a priesthood apprenticeship. IMO the overwhelming focus in the CoE on vocation equalling priesthood has been extremely damaging.

    On that note, I wonder if there are any Anglican religious communities nearby who have visiting clergy for their Eucharists that they could put the church in touch with? Or communities who may have priests within their number and be willing to build links with Karl's church? From what I remember, the Community of the Holy Name isn't too far from Karl's area. The Franciscans would also be a good fit if they have any houses nearby. People who are called to the religious life in the 21st century are extremely familiar with being spiritual oddballs who don't fit in with regular churches. Religious orders also have a certain degree of independence from the local church hierarchy which might work well here.
  • @Pomona - yes, you're quite right about the C of E's neglect of the permanent diaconate. I personally know of only one in this Diocese, though that's not to say there aren't a few more, of course!

    I understand that some of the Lutheran churches e.g. the Church of Sweden also have a permanent diaconate.

    The possibility of involvement by a religious Order would be well worth exploring.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    Do you need a full time cleric? It seems a bit of an indulgence when you are so few. Maybe midweek eucharist delivered by a friendly local vicar who might also be agreeable to keeping a friendly eye on you.
    Looking at the FE website it would seem to be about mission. Maybe you are being encouraged by the bishop to do a bit of self-assessment as to your missionary success?

    Thanks for the posts from others about a Eucharist by pre-sanctified elements. I'd agree that that's not a first choice, but it is a possibility.

    Alan's post gets to the real point. Can such a small congregation continue? How on earth do you pay the electricity bill, let alone maintenance and repairs?
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited January 29
    Gee D wrote: »

    Alan's post gets to the real point. Can such a small congregation continue? How on earth do you pay the electricity bill, let alone maintenance and repairs?

    IIRC, Karl's group doesn't have its own premises, but meets in various places.

    There are, however, many very small congregations with expensive-to-run churches, and I fear that quite a few will simply not re-open their doors.

  • I understand that some of the Lutheran churches e.g. the Church of Sweden also have a permanent diaconate.
    As does The Episcopal Church (US).


    Gee D wrote: »
    Alan's post gets to the real point. Can such a small congregation continue? How on earth do you pay the electricity bill, let alone maintenance and repairs?
    My recollection from past discussions is that KarlLB’s has no buildings to light, repair or maintain.

    Karl, not knowing anything about where you are, would some “sacramental assistance,” as it were, from someone other than a CofE priest—perhaps a Methodist, Baptist or URC minister—be an option at all? Particularly if you’re thinking of going independent?

  • Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Raptor Eye wrote: »

    If a lay person is willing, trained and called to take oversight of a particular parish, thank God for that! Embrace them and work with them.

    And, I would say, ordain them. You don't need a sacerdotal view of the priesthood to recognise that a person in such a role should be ordained, whether they're stipendiary or not.

    Up here communion by extension is an accepted part of worship in the more remote parts of the province, but there was also some debate over whether the tradition of the "mass priest" - ordained but licenced only to celebrate and not to preach or lead a parish - should be revived.

    With regard to @KarlLB 's problem, if there were someone in the congregation sufficiently interested and who felt called to do so there might be room for someone to seek ordination as an OLM (thought the timescale on achieving that is not favourable). There's also the possibility, given the apparent availability of a vicarage, of exploring a house for duty post.

    Why ordain them, if they’re not called to ordination?

    I'm struggling with the distinction between a calling to leading the worship and pastoral care of a Christian community and a calling to ordination.

    I would say that a calling to the priesthood is something deeper, and less able to be put into words, more of a ‘knowing’ rather than being specifically related to tasks.

    Many lay people are called to lead worship, and/or to preach and/or to teach, and/or to provide pastoral care, and/or I would argue to preside over the Eucharist, baptise, and/or to take funerals - as well as some being called to do administration, flowers, building maintenance, etc within the church - but the latter are not expected to have been ordained.

    I've led worship as a lay person, including preaching, but I do so out of necessity in the absence of anyone suitably trained and equipped. It seems to me that any sort of permanent ministry leading a community should only arise out of a sense of calling not, as you say, to the specific tasks but to something like the instructions to Peter: "feed my sheep"; and that calling is what I would associate with being called to the priesthood.

    I do, however, think that if someone does identify a call to the temporal work of the church (perhaps running a food bank) then ordination to the deaconate would be appropriate.

    I may miss my guess but are you drawing a distinction between "called to do" and "called to be"?
  • Or Lutheran? There are some in England...
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited January 29
    I think it likely that we may see a return to the conditions of the early church in a lot of places, including the U.S. not too long in the future. I mean, meeting in buildings not designed for worship, and handling most things through lay leadership and the advice of offsite people (then apostles, now maybe bishops and such?). And of course the emergence of tentmaker pastors,* ordained or not. My own denomination has begun authorizing local lay leaders to take care of a congregation under supervision and with a course of study going on at the same time, while they remain in their communities and regular jobs. It's a lot to ask of someone, but there exist people willing to do it.

    * term of art in the U.S.--does not mean "crazy ranters from churches with ungodly long names," but simply "minister, local spiritual leader in charge of a congregation."

    I'm not sure what they're going to do about the communion issue. In our theology we have the concept of "priesthood of all believers," which forms the basis for allowing lay people to baptize in emergencies, and really ought to have resulted in permission/training of lay people to celebrate communion in their homes during the lockdown--but our leadership are foot draggers and often have not the courage of their convictions. But this will probably end up as the answer to the de-structuralization of the mainline denominations, IMHO.

    I rather think we need (my church, at least) to start putting theological and pastoral education online for anyone to access. The old residential education isn't going to work for many of the people who are finding themselves willy nilly in charge of a congregation, whether as preachers or worship leaders or teachers or caregivers.
  • I rather think we need (my church, at least) to start putting theological and pastoral education online for anyone to access. The old residential education isn't going to work for many of the people who are finding themselves willy nilly in charge of a congregation, whether as preachers or worship leaders or teachers or caregivers.

    That, at least, is already happening in the Scottish Episcopal Church. The SEC can't afford to run a residential theological college even if it wanted to, and dragging prospective ordinands from all over Scotland for 3 years of study is a non-starter so it's done remotely with periodic weekend meetups (presumably not at the moment).
  • Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Raptor Eye wrote: »

    If a lay person is willing, trained and called to take oversight of a particular parish, thank God for that! Embrace them and work with them.

    And, I would say, ordain them. You don't need a sacerdotal view of the priesthood to recognise that a person in such a role should be ordained, whether they're stipendiary or not.

    Up here communion by extension is an accepted part of worship in the more remote parts of the province, but there was also some debate over whether the tradition of the "mass priest" - ordained but licenced only to celebrate and not to preach or lead a parish - should be revived.

    With regard to @KarlLB 's problem, if there were someone in the congregation sufficiently interested and who felt called to do so there might be room for someone to seek ordination as an OLM (thought the timescale on achieving that is not favourable). There's also the possibility, given the apparent availability of a vicarage, of exploring a house for duty post.

    Why ordain them, if they’re not called to ordination?

    I'm struggling with the distinction between a calling to leading the worship and pastoral care of a Christian community and a calling to ordination.

    I would say that a calling to the priesthood is something deeper, and less able to be put into words, more of a ‘knowing’ rather than being specifically related to tasks.

    Many lay people are called to lead worship, and/or to preach and/or to teach, and/or to provide pastoral care, and/or I would argue to preside over the Eucharist, baptise, and/or to take funerals - as well as some being called to do administration, flowers, building maintenance, etc within the church - but the latter are not expected to have been ordained.

    I've led worship as a lay person, including preaching, but I do so out of necessity in the absence of anyone suitably trained and equipped. It seems to me that any sort of permanent ministry leading a community should only arise out of a sense of calling not, as you say, to the specific tasks but to something like the instructions to Peter: "feed my sheep"; and that calling is what I would associate with being called to the priesthood.

    I do, however, think that if someone does identify a call to the temporal work of the church (perhaps running a food bank) then ordination to the deaconate would be appropriate.

    I may miss my guess but are you drawing a distinction between "called to do" and "called to be"?

    Interesting perhaps that I was and am called very clearly to ‘feed my sheep’ , I went through the same training alongside ordinands, and yet I am a lay minister. I do not have a calling into the priesthood or the ordained diaconate. We are all surely called to be and to do.


  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited January 29
    The return to earlier-Church ways, as @Lamb Chopped indicates, is possible here in the UK as well.

    Quite what the C of E is to do with its hundreds - nay, thousands - of old churches is another matter.
  • And of course the emergence of tentmaker pastors,* ordained or not. My own denomination has begun authorizing local lay leaders to take care of a congregation under supervision and with a course of study going on at the same time, while they remain in their communities and regular jobs. It's a lot to ask of someone, but there exist people willing to do it.

    * term of art in the U.S.--does not mean "crazy ranters from churches with ungodly long names," but simply "minister, local spiritual leader in charge of a congregation."
    FWIW, in my tribe a “tent-maker pastor” is an ordained minister who has a full-time, non-church job and who provides pastoral leadership as essentially a second, part-time job.

    We Presbyterians are in a somewhat different position in the sense that every congregation has “ordained laity” with elders and often deacons. That doesn’t mean we’re not also feeling the stresses described here, especially in smaller congregations. Our primary solution so far has been provision for presbyteries to commission already ordained elders to preach, administer the sacraments, moderate Session, provide pastoral care and officiate at weddings (if allowed by state law). Training is required, which the presbytery provides, and the commissioned elder can only carry out these pastoral services in the congregation specified in the commission.

  • john holdingjohn holding Ecclesiantics Host, Mystery Worshipper Host
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I understand that some of the Lutheran churches e.g. the Church of Sweden also have a permanent diaconate.
    As does The Episcopal Church (US).


    Gee D wrote: »
    Alan's post gets to the real point. Can such a small congregation continue? How on earth do you pay the electricity bill, let alone maintenance and repairs?
    My recollection from past discussions is that KarlLB’s has no buildings to light, repair or maintain.

    Karl, not knowing anything about where you are, would some “sacramental assistance,” as it were, from someone other than a CofE priest—perhaps a Methodist, Baptist or URC minister—be an option at all? Particularly if you’re thinking of going independent?

    Karl made it clear, I thought, that his group is looking for a solution within the constraints of the CofE. Others have talked about going independent, which of course means leaving behind his group's understanding of eucharist and priesthood, but Karl has not.
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I understand that some of the Lutheran churches e.g. the Church of Sweden also have a permanent diaconate.
    As does The Episcopal Church (US).
    Gee D wrote: »
    Alan's post gets to the real point. Can such a small congregation continue? How on earth do you pay the electricity bill, let alone maintenance and repairs?
    My recollection from past discussions is that KarlLB’s has no buildings to light, repair or maintain.

    Karl, not knowing anything about where you are, would some “sacramental assistance,” as it were, from someone other than a CofE priest—perhaps a Methodist, Baptist or URC minister—be an option at all? Particularly if you’re thinking of going independent?

    Karl made it clear, I thought, that his group is looking for a solution within the constraints of the CofE. Others have talked about going independent, which of course means leaving behind his group's understanding of eucharist and priesthood, but Karl has not.
    Yes, he has talked about going independent, and he also suggested that his group’s understanding of the Eucharist and the priesthood was not really an impediment to doing so. He said:
    KarlLB wrote: »
    And there's no real solution to the Eucharist issue. We really don't want RentaVic... most of us are theologically in a place where it's only CofE rules requiring ordination to preside. There's talk of actually going independent to resolve that one.
    Others who talked about going independent did so in response what KarlLB said.

  • ECraigRECraigR Castaway
    The Episcopal Church also has a clergy shortage. In my diocese we have 13 open parishes, with at least 50% of the current priests at retirement age.

    The Episcopal Church makes it very difficult to get new clergy. We have the initial application procedure, then a meeting with the Bishop, then a discernment committee is assigned to an aspirant, then if the discernment committee is satisfied a meeting of the commission on ministry, which is a ridiculous and very political process. I was stopped a few weeks ago by the commission on ministry because of politics. I was told I’m “too involved” with my church, because the diocese doesn’t like my church. Never thought I’d hear a clergy person say I’m too involved with my church to be a priest, but here we are. It’s quite common for people to be stopped by commissions on ministry at least once, sometimes twice or thrice. My priest was stopped twice. There’s also a pronounced bias against young people trying to become priests. The whole thing is a ridiculous mess.
  • I rather think we need (my church, at least) to start putting theological and pastoral education online for anyone to access. The old residential education isn't going to work for many of the people who are finding themselves willy nilly in charge of a congregation, whether as preachers or worship leaders or teachers or caregivers.

    That, at least, is already happening in the Scottish Episcopal Church. The SEC can't afford to run a residential theological college even if it wanted to, and dragging prospective ordinands from all over Scotland for 3 years of study is a non-starter so it's done remotely with periodic weekend meetups (presumably not at the moment).

    Much the same in the South Wales Baptist College - already under way pre-Covid, largely because a lot of the students have to continue holding down Proper Jobs while studying.
  • OffeiriadOffeiriad Shipmate Posts: 46
    I've been struggling for some years to understand why in the Church of England you can let any half-trained maniac (I've tried to train them!) loose to preach subtle heresy claiming it represents the message of the Bible, but that bread can only broken with the words of Christ by a university graduate.

    I heard years ago that some small rural parishes in traditionally Orthodox jurisdictions are allowed find a godly and literate person from the congregation and send them to the Bishop, who ordains them as a Priest (presumably after checking the beard is real....). Why not here - or are we too wrapped up in Keeping Up Appearances?
  • @Offeiriad

    If, by *half trained maniac...[preaching] subtle heresy* you are referring to Blue Scarfed Menaces Lay Readers, then I plead Guilty As Charged!

    Seriously, though, lay minister training in this Diocese is almost the same as that provided for ordinands.

    I like the reference to the Orthodoxen practice - eminently sensible ISTM. My beard is genuine, BTW...
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Offeiriad wrote: »
    I've been struggling for some years to understand why in the Church of England you can let any half-trained maniac (I've tried to train them!) loose to preach subtle heresy claiming it represents the message of the Bible, but that bread can only broken with the words of Christ by a university graduate.

    I heard years ago that some small rural parishes in traditionally Orthodox jurisdictions are allowed find a godly and literate person from the congregation and send them to the Bishop, who ordains them as a Priest (presumably after checking the beard is real....). Why not here - or are we too wrapped up in Keeping Up Appearances?

    I was under the impression that the non-residential ministerial training options in the CoE don't necessarily provide a degree, and that it's one of the few Anglican churches which doesn't require a degree to become a priest.

    I don't think a degree should be required to train for ordination - it is one of the issues really obstructing younger people from getting ordained in TEC - but I do think degree-level training is an appropriate level of education for trainee clergy. Many small parishes don't have anyone suitable who could be ordained directly - I'm sure Karl's church is different but I wouldn't want to take a chance on a small congregation having anyone suitable. It makes sense for clergy in a non-congregational denomination to have the same standard minimum level of training.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    The Romanian Orthodox practice of using trees as confessors when human confessors are not available or accessible, however, is a rather nice one.
  • Pomona wrote: »
    The Romanian Orthodox practice of using trees as confessors when human confessors are not available or accessible, however, is a rather nice one.

    What a delightfully whimsical image that conjures up! Are you able to provide some sort of linky, or citation?
    :grin:
  • lay minister training in this Diocese is almost the same as that provided for ordinands.

    Which indicates to me that the training provided for ordinands is deficient. I'm not dissing lay ministers but it worries me that I have known far too many Anglican clergy who are theologically weak and show little understanding of, or appreciation for, things like solid biblical scholarship, church history, theory and development of the liturgy and so on. To my way of thinking, ordinands OUGHT to be trained to a much higher level than lay ministers, if they are to be properly prepared for the ministry to which they aspire.
  • lay minister training in this Diocese is almost the same as that provided for ordinands.

    Which indicates to me that the training provided for ordinands is deficient. I'm not dissing lay ministers but it worries me that I have known far too many Anglican clergy who are theologically weak and show little understanding of, or appreciation for, things like solid biblical scholarship, church history, theory and development of the liturgy and so on. To my way of thinking, ordinands OUGHT to be trained to a much higher level than lay ministers, if they are to be properly prepared for the ministry to which they aspire.

    Perhaps I should have said that *almost the same* could actually mean *better than*!

    In some aspects, I daresay that's the case - certainly some lay ministers I know have a far better grasp of liturgy than many clergypeople...
  • edited January 30
    Pomona wrote: »
    The Romanian Orthodox practice of using trees as confessors when human confessors are not available or accessible, however, is a rather nice one.

    I rather like this, and it will be useful advice for one of my (involuntarily) solitary friends in the countryside.

    Northern settlements here relied on locally-identified elders, first as catechists, then as clergy, and while they undergo training, they only most exceptionally have degrees. Until very very recently most of them have only Grade X. The discernment process is run jointly by the bishop and the village, and is quite interesting. The same might work in Wombledown Episcopi.
  • lay minister training in this Diocese is almost the same as that provided for ordinands.

    Which indicates to me that the training provided for ordinands is deficient. I'm not dissing lay ministers but it worries me that I have known far too many Anglican clergy who are theologically weak and show little understanding of, or appreciation for, things like solid biblical scholarship, church history, theory and development of the liturgy and so on. To my way of thinking, ordinands OUGHT to be trained to a much higher level than lay ministers, if they are to be properly prepared for the ministry to which they aspire.

    I have some sympathy for ordinands and those charged with their formation. That formation is expected to cover so much that 2-3 years pre-ordination seems hardly enough, yet that is already a large chunk of time to ask (mostly now mid-life or later) people to juggle its demands with making a living and care for a family before (putting it crudely) getting them on the payroll. In a different field, teaching, there are constant demands that teachers be informed about x or able to teach about y.

    Personally I don't think we can expect clergy to share our spheres of interest within the life of the church (I'm sure there's a band leader somewhere complaining that their new pastor doesn't know his amp from his elbow) and to have encyclopaedic knowledge of them. What I would hope for is a willingness to listen and an empathy for the importance we attach to things they are not well-versed in.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Pomona wrote: »
    The Romanian Orthodox practice of using trees as confessors when human confessors are not available or accessible, however, is a rather nice one.

    What a delightfully whimsical image that conjures up! Are you able to provide some sort of linky, or citation?
    :grin:

    Alas, it's something an Orthodox friend was told by a Romanian deacon in her old parish, rather than something written down. My friend found it useful when studying abroad and unable to find a priest whose English was fluent enough for confession to really work (and also her Lancashire accent didn't always help there!).
  • Personally I don't think we can expect clergy to share our spheres of interest within the life of the church (I'm sure there's a band leader somewhere complaining that their new pastor doesn't know his amp from his elbow) and to have encyclopaedic knowledge of them. What I would hope for is a willingness to listen and an empathy for the importance we attach to things they are not well-versed in.

    I think that's a perfectly reasonable point. I don't think a priest who has only a brief overview of church history or music is a problem, so long as that priest is willing to be advised, and doesn't dictate from a point of ignorance. I have more difficulty with a priest who doesn't have a decent grounding in, as @Rufus T Firefly mentioned, biblical scholarship, or liturgy, or theology.
  • I can tolerate a priest who isn't liturgically knowledgeable so long as they can follow the liturgy with appropriate seriousness. I'll concede that cluelessness about theology and Biblical scholarship are more difficult to ameliorate.
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    I don't think most people expect a priest to be a liturgy geek, or to be able to quote Gregory Dix at parties. However there seems to be a number of clergy who don't believe (or behave as if they believe) that the worship of God is the central act of the Church and that their role in enabling this is crucial. Only a minority of priests are now trained at residential colleges; there are many good reasons for this, but an unfortunate side effect is that they are no longer exposed to the daily round of offices and Eucharist, and the pattern of the liturgical year, in a consistent way. Their home and placement parishes will often be poor substitutes for this – even if they are well-enough resourced to offer a full liturgical diet, anyone with work and family commitments on top of clergy training will not gain the full benefit from them. And, a vicious spiral this, if these parishes are in the hands of liturgically-clueless clergy, there is even less likelihood that future generations of clergy will be any better.
  • angloid wrote: »
    ... an unfortunate side effect is that they are no longer exposed to the daily round of offices and Eucharist, and the pattern of the liturgical year, in a consistent way. ... And, a vicious spiral this, if these parishes are in the hands of liturgically-clueless clergy, there is even less likelihood that future generations of clergy will be any better.
    Hmm. I do have to ask the question - and of course I'm not an Anglican - as to whether being liturgically literate is as important to God as it is to us? And may I also wonder if a concentration on the liturgy hints more (I'm trying not to be offensive here) at a focus on "Church" than on "Mission and Outreach" - though of course they don't have to be mutually exclusive!

    I suppose, at a deeper level, that I'm asking whether the post-Christendom setting in which we now finds ourselves means that some things which once seemed to be very important in church life are now less important, and that our primary focus needs to be different? If that's the case, then ministerial formation will also need to change (and, I'm sure, is).

Sign In or Register to comment.