Vicar's Monthly Letter

Vicars Letter

By the time you read this in May, and by Sunday 1st May I should be 13 days into my 36 day almost 1,000km pilgrimage from Seville to Santiago and my walking plan suggests I will be in a place called Grimaldo, a small village in central Spain. Hopefully at this stage I will be de-stressed and beginning the process of reflecting on almost 10 years of ministry in the Frome Valley and listening to God as I re-charge my spiritual batteries. If you want to see if I am on schedule log into my blog at https://wanderingpriest.blogspot.com

 

As I write this just before Easter I am still in the midst of one of the busiest periods of ministry that I can remember. I still have 2 funerals to take during Holy Week along with more Annual Parochial Church Meetings, Holy Week services and Easter services to prepare for. Knowing that I’m not the only member of clergy in the Diocese who is completely worn out doesn’t always help. I’m looking forward to the joy of Easter Sunday, but I’m also looking forward to getting away from it all.

 

One of the tensions I constantly live with is knowing how much it costs to have me here in the benefice and also knowing what pressures the churches are under to pay towards the cost of ministry. At a PCC meeting recently I asked a churchwarden if they thought my ministry was worth the £1,000 that the church pays towards the cost of our £67,000 share of ministry - they said no. I was very sad to hear that I’m not worth £19 a week to one of my churchwardens.

 

Other tensions arise when people don’t get what they want, or ‘what they pay for’. It seems that everyone is looking for value for money – and the only place they see this is on Sundays. The ministry that continues relentlessly throughout the week is not on most people’s radar, and I understand that. But, do people really believe that if a church pays say £3,000 a year towards ministry (that’s £58 a week) that they should have every service they demand? Or that if I can’t cover a service myself that I should be able to pluck another priest out of nowhere for them?

 

One of the great joys of services in Lent was that Bishops Frome church was closed due to ceiling repairs. Why was this a joy? Because they held some of their service in Much Cowarne. Somehow we seem to have managed to move the entire congregation from one church to another without any problem and it was a great blessing for both congregations.

 

The idea that we can only practice our faith in our local church, that clergy can cover every service we might want and that we can continue to get away with paying £20 a week for the Vicar is completely unrealistic. We simply can’t carry on like this. Below is a simple pie chart which explains the costs of ministry that a benefice such as ours should be trying it’s best to cover. Some of our churches give generously and plan to increase giving next year. Others receive additional income but keep it for a rainy day. With the Diocese left to subsidise the parishes leaving them with a £1.02 Million deficit I think the rainy day has already arrived.

 

Have a blessed and generous Easter.

Steven