In the summer of 2017, my wife was dying of cancer. We derived great solace from visits from our vicar in the Parish of St Mary’s Nanpantan, Loughborough, Diocese of Leicester.
She would come and pray with us both in our house on a regular basis. This, we felt, was an essential part of the local vicar’s role.
Towards the end of my wife’s life, our vicar was ‘promoted’ to Assistant Archdeacon. This meant that 50% of her time was to be devoted to Archdeacon work.
She came to see us, to tell us that the Diocese had told her to stop all external visiting and pastoral work so that she could prioritise the Diocesan Archdeacon Activity.
Is this the way the Church is going?
The vicar in question went on to become Archdeacon of Coventry. Another ‘promotion’. More money, but less and less involvement with the congregations locally in the Parishes.
I am sure that this vicar realises that she is not being allowed to follow her proper calling. But she has been sucked into the vicious spiral that forces good local community vicars into thinking that they are being more productive by shuffling paper around and ‘counting paperclips’. They are afraid to speak out, because future advance in the hierarchy demands total ‘obedience’ to the party line.
In Leicester Diocese, vicars are being plucked from their local community to go to serve in nebulous vicar banks, known as Minsters. The total vicar count is being reduced by 20%, with this number being compensated with additional ‘Operations Directors’.
We must fear that the essential pastoral care role of the local parish vicar is being lost forever. The only part of the system to gain is the diocesan administration. This does not benefit the people at all. The Church’s own studies (please see the Evidence section on this website) show that church attendance and giving flow from the presence of a stipendiary vicar, based in the community of the parish.
If you cut off the pastoral care of the people, which my wife and I experienced in our hour of need, the people will come to church less, and will give less. I do not understand how Leicester can possibly proceed with its centralisation scheme when we are already hearing from other places like Liverpool, which have used a similar centralising approach and cut parish vicars, that parish giving has dropped by a significant percentage.
All this brings me to ask the question:
‘Is the Church of England more interested in worshipping God or bureaucracy?’