We are in a benefice of four churches and have been in vacancy for two years. There are three benefices in this deanery amounting to eleven churches, in vacancy. In an adjoining deanery there are three benefices in vacancy – perhaps ten or twelve churches and in another adjoining deanery nine churches in vacancy. As far as I can see most of the vicarages are let bringing in an income of between £19200 and £24000 rent per annum.

We are told the diocese do not have the finance to replace all those who have retired or moved on. What the church as a whole do not see is that they need to invest in priests- speculate to accumulate. Each time a parish priest is taken away there is a drop of approximately 40% in the congregation. Added to which those who liked to see the vicar around would support the church financially on a monthly basis. That usually goes when the priest does. That leaves the parishes with a vastly reduced income that ultimately leads to a reduction in ‘share’ being paid.

During vacancy there is only one service in our benefice instead of the previous pattern of four each week hence 75% of the ‘plate’ has gone from each church. Somehow we need the church to understand the desperate situation as we retired priests are mostly over eighty and tired and there are only a few of us to lead worship, take funerals/ weddings/school services.

Putting more churches together in each benefice puts further strain on any incumbent.


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C Mulholland Canon, retired) · 29 October 2022 at 7:13 pm

There are just too few clergy. Why? Because the job is no longer attractive. Multi parish groups, false initiatives from dioceses, infantile or uninspiring liturgy, weak leadership at the top, unrealistic expectations of parish share, added to which the secular age. Who would consider it as a life career or recommend a child/godchild to consider it as a career.
My sponsoring parish produced 11 vocations in 25 years. The vicars were inspiring and godly, the liturgy choral and serious.
But has this decline occurred as a result of misjudgement or deliberate policy. In the case of rural parishes, I have long suspected that small local churches are resented by the hierarchy.
Ordaining women was promoted in order to double the numbers. ! So why are there still so few men/women willing to consider a life time career in parish service?
Vacancies provide a real opportunity for the Church to eradicate inconveniently small parishes by rendering then non viable.

David Smith · 31 March 2023 at 6:40 pm

Exeter Diocese has £42 million in its clergy stipend fund, they are guilty of terminalogical inexactitude if they say they have no money for clergy stipends (see their 2020 accounts). They are clearly following the National trend of garnering power, staff and wealth to the centre of the Diocese, leaving the peasants – sorry- parishes to wither away under onerous parish shares and having to put up with one service a month. The decline of the CofE is now seen as a parish problem not a result of pathetic leadership from Bishops.

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