News and Views from the United Benefice
On this page is posted a developing sequence of articles and information bulletins to keep everyone up to date
with what is happening in the weeks and months following Fr Neil Kelley's departure for pastures new in June 2012.
With the posting of the very welcome final items immediately below, this page becomes an archive!
ITEM FIVE... AND LAST
The final bulletin from Maureen Madden marks the beginning of the end of the interregnum as we wait the arrival in a few weeks' time of our new vicar (well, technically, priest-in-charge, but what's in a name...
I was tempted to give this brief article the same title as an old Roy Orbison song: ‘It’s Over’…. But as we all know, ‘It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings’ and we still have the Licensing and subsequent bun fight to finalise. Thanks to the choice of location for that particular ceremony and our preoccupation with the Tree Festival, Margaret and I have played little part in the organisation of the Licensing. The before, during and after of the Trees keeping us busy whilst a varied team of musicians, caterers, typesetters and printers get on with organising our first big event after Christmas.
For those who may not yet know, the Licensing is to take place at St Mary’s on Wednesday January 9th. Fr Simon will be arriving to take up residence just a few days before that and his first Mass will be at a joint service in St Faith’s on January 13th. Elsewhere in this edition of Newslink you will have been able to read a little about Fr Simon in his own words. The Senior Citizens’ lunch which had been scheduled for January 6th has now been postponed to a yet to be confirmed ‘pre-Lent’ date so that our new priest will be able to join us.
We had been prepared for a much longer wait for the advent of a new priest and are aware of how lucky we are to be starting a new year with Simon. I have to say that one of the things which pleases me most is that this is someone who saw our vacancy, read our Profile and was drawn to us. His subsequent visits (one pre and one post interview) served to confirm his feeling that this was a place in which he wanted to minister and to make his home. Throughout the whole process of preparing for our vacancy and interregnum, my innate cynicism had made me watchful of an ‘inside deal’ and put me on guard of those gift- bearing Greeks previously mentioned. It is optimistic, therefore, to be able to welcome some-one who came from an unexpected source and who is able to join us so soon.
On practical matters, the vicarage will be receiving a minor ‘make-over’ in terms of the parquet flooring being restored and refurbished and a couple of rooms will receive a coat of paint. Those of you who live locally may notice some comings and goings to this effect immediately before Christmas and in the period between Christmas and New Year.
In conclusion I am sure that, in order to welcome Fr. Simon, Fr. Neil would not object to me quoting his appropriate paraphrase of lines from the hymn ‘Lord for the Years’ at his last service in June:
“Past - to inspire us, for the Future take us,
Lord of the years, we give our thanks today”
December 12th, 2012
ITEM FOUR - NEWSFLASH!
To everyone's delight, it was announced on Sunday, 25th November, that we have a new Vicar for the United Benefice - and that he will be coming to us as soon as January 9th. To read about Fr Simon Tibbs, click HERE
The Parish Profile
This all-important document is now, at the end of a (very!) lengthy process of writing, formatting, illustrating, proofing, correcting and final approval, online on our website, that of St Mary's, and that of the Liverpool Diocese. An advertisement in the Church Times on September 20th also invited applications to fill the vacancy.
An index page, linking to the Profile itself, and various associated diocesan documents, is HERE. Read all about it (and us!)
THE STORY OF SECTION TWELVE
Bringing you up to date on the interregnum procedure
'Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis'*
Monday, September 10th was the date of the so-called Section 12 meeting at which the Archdeacon, Ricky Panter, met with both PCCs and a final discussion of the Parish Profile and examination of two appendices to the document took place.
Also present were Tom Rich who is currently acting Area Dean and Jenny Brady who is Lay Chair of the Deanery Synod.
The Profile had previously been discussed in July, corrections and amendments made and the document then sent to the Archdeacon for his initial approval. After Margaret and I met with the Archdeacon to clarify several issues of procedure, it was agreed that he should chair the meeting on the 10th and that the Wardens would then be able to remind members of the earlier draft and take note of any further suggestions to be made before the final ‘signing off’ of the Profile.
The appendices which were also under discussion were the ‘Role Description’ and the ‘Person Specification’ which are something akin to a job description, an attempt to focus the needs of the Parishes as they have been expressed in the Profile and to clarify the ‘Essential’ and the ‘Desirable’ qualities we would hope to find in a potential new Vicar (at this point I deliberately avoid the word ‘incumbent’ for reasons which I hope will later become clear!).
The meeting began promptly at 7.00pm and eventually closed at 9.45. The time in between those stages being spent discussing points from the Profile and the two appendices and questioning the Archdeacon about further stages in the process of advertising, shortlisting and interviewing candidates who may apply…..!
It has to be said that some points raised were minor issues but everyone present was entitled to the chance to express their view. Other issues were most definitely major: not least of which was Lillie’s request that the Archdeacon clarify the wording of the Role Description and Person Specification which refer to ‘Priest in Charge’ of the United Benefice. This question had also arisen when the ‘Suspension’ Notice was posted in the Porch some weeks ago and we had to add a brief footnote of explanation.
The wording is important and reflects the current situation in many Dioceses in the Church of England today. In most cases when a vacancy arises, the ‘living’ will revert from freehold to tenure and the incumbent will be replaced by a priest in charge. What this effectively means is that economics have dictated that many parishes can no longer continue to survive independently. We became a United Benefice over 13 years ago, we have currently agreed to ‘explore’ the position of becoming a ‘Unified Parish’; the future may lead towards ‘Group’ or’ Team’ Ministry. The essential difference is that whoever the new incumbent (sorry! ‘Priest in Charge’) may be, he or she will not be able to become independent of the decisions of the Diocese: ie. having once accepted the job, they will not be able to prevent pastoral reorganisation.
In one sense, we can all recognise that this is an inevitability. Of course, savings have to be made, parishes joined together, churches which have become expensive and unsustainable closed. After all; where are all those hordes of people waiting to come through our doors and add to our coffers every Sunday and Holy Day?
In another sense however, I cannot help but hear the voices of friends and mentors who have far more experience of working with and in the C of E than I do and who would be asking: ‘How are we being led by example? What cut-backs have been made in the Diocesan Offices? What radical changes have taken place in living/travelling expenses of Bishops and the Hierarchy? How are the ‘Management’ proving in the conduct of their daily business that desperate times mean desperate measures?
I have no doubt that fellow cynics will echo these sentiments but we are nonetheless still ever hopeful of attracting the attention of someone who ‘knows the score’ and has already been able to place themselves between the rock and the hard place of recognising the needs of a Parish and the demands of Management.
Of course we are all committed, first and foremost, to ensuring that Christ’s word prevails in our church and in our daily lives. We must be careful therefore, not to let the minutiae of our individual preferences, nor the expediency of Diocesan bureaucracy get in the way and blur our vision of the right person at the right time.
The Parish Profile which you will now be able to access on the churches’ and the Diocesan website is the result of months of hard work and careful thought. It is there to attract the interest and attention of that ‘right person’.
The Archdeacon, Area Dean and Lay Chairperson were all extremely supportive and encouraging of our situation at the Section 12 meeting; as has been the case with all those with whom we have had contact at the Diocesan Offices.
It is the continuing job of the Wardens, the PCC s and the elected Parish Representatives to ensure that our efforts are not ‘sidelined’ in any way and that we follow through the whole process, avoiding any short cuts which may be suggested to us and considering carefully any ‘gifts’ who may suddenly appear from the wings.
* loosely translated – ‘Beware of Greeks even when they bear gifts’
On the Domestic Front
At the time of writing there have been two interested parties shown around the Vicarage with a view to taking a six month lease on the property.
The Diocese employ an agency who use Sutton and Kersh Estate Agents to liaise with prospective rental tenants.
The Estate Agents have contacted one of the Wardens each time a viewing is requested but we would not hear anything further until a definite tenant has signed the lease.
In the event of a tenant being secured, the Diocese will pay back 20% of the rental income to the Parish.
September 12th, 2012
In the September 2012 issue of our magazine, churchwarden Margaret Houghton reported on the deliberations of the joint meeting of St Faith's and St Mary's Parochial Church Councils on 17th July, and the writing and vetting of the United Benefice Parish Profile. This illustrated document, compiled by the church wardens of both churches and which follows broad diocesan guidelines, describes the parish, our two churches, their worship and community life, and what is being looked for in a new vicar. She outlines what will be happening during the autumn months.
For interest, PCC Secretary Lillie Wilmot wrote up a few highlights of what took place at the meeting of the St Faith's PCC which immediately preceded that joint meeting.
INTERREGNUM BULLETIN: AUGUST
On Tuesday 29th May the Church Wardens of both parishes met with the Archdeacon to discuss the procedure for an interregnum. Firstly a Parish Profile needed to be written, to include the needs and traditions of the parish and full description of both churches, followed by two individual descriptions.
At a joint meeting of the two PCCs held at St. Mary’s Church on the 17th July the Parish Profile was presented for comments and approval, and was agreed with one or two suggestions for minor amendments and additions. Also at this time each PCC elected two parish representatives, who, together with the Archdeacon, are responsible for the selection of a new incumbent. The representatives elected for St. Faith’s Church are David Jones and Margaret Houghton.
The Parish Profile is now complete and awaiting the addition of photographs highlighting events and services which have been enjoyed by both churches over the past few years, ably edited and embellished by our very capable Mr. Price (how kind! Ed.), which will then be forwarded to the Archdeacon for approval.
A ‘Section 12’ meeting will then be held at St. Mary’s on the 10th September when the PCC, wardens and Archdeacon will discuss the finer details, personal profile required in a new incumbent and details of the advertisement. Once this is agreed, on the 15th September an advertisement will be placed in the Church Times and other relevant publications. The closing date for applications is the 12th October, short-listing by the 14th and interviews will take place on 31st October.
POINTS FROM THE PCC
A few brief highlights ... As well as PCC members, there were several other people from our congregation present at the July 17th meetings: a welcome development.... At the St Faith's PCC's preliminary meeting Brenda Cottarel, Joyce Green and Tam McLaren were approved as new Eucharistic minsters, bringing the current total to 15... There was a brief report on the happenings at the recent Bishop’s Growth Conference... Geoff Dunn’s report outlining our response to the ‘Going for Growth’ initiative has been published.... Following the success of the stewardship campaign, future action will focus on the Youth and Publicity groups... A sequestration account is being set up to deal with all relevant financial affairs during the interregnum... The vicarage has been assessed for possible letting during the vacancy... Resolutions A and B (concerning acceptance of women priests at the altar or as possible incumbents) were discussed but, by a large majority, agreed not to be debated... The next ordinary meeting of the PCC will be on September 18th.
This first article, published in the August edition of our parish magazine 'Newslink' was written by David Jones, St Faith's Treasurer, and veteran of other interregna (yes that's the correct plural!) in other churches. It outlines the basic facts about what happens when an incumbent leaves.
WHAT IS AN “INTERREGNUM”?
The interregnum is the period between the departure of the outgoing vicar and the institution and induction of the new one (literally “between reigns”!). Some vacancies are filled very quickly, others can take longer but it is usually about a year. In another church of my acquaintance, the vicar left in July, a new one was appointed in December and he was inducted in June this year.
The new vicar is chosen by the Patron(s), acting together with the Bishop and the parish representatives appointed by the PCC. The PCC meets to prepare a “parish profile” that describes the conditions, needs and traditions of the parish and the kind of parish priest the PCC feels the United Benefice needs.
The PCC decides whether to advertise nationally or to seek applications from within the Diocese. The PCCs of the United Benefice will opt for a national advertisement.
Meetings are held at various times to discuss a new appointment with the Bishop (or his representative, usually the Archdeacon), the Area Dean, the patrons, parish representatives and the PCC.
During the interregnum, the churchwardens, with the PCC, are legally responsible for maintaining the life of the church. They have the responsibility for providing for the services of worship and the continuation of pastoral care. The churchwardens are also responsible for collecting fees and for taking care of the vicarage and any other property of the benefice.
It is always in the best interests of the parish to get on with things as quickly as possible. If, however, no priest is presented to the Bishop within nine months of the vacancy, then the patronage is passed to the Archbishop of York and the parish representatives lose their right of veto. The Archbishop would consult the Bishop and the parish representatives but does not normally need their approval before offering the benefice to a priest of his choice.
Let us hope that the appointment process runs smoothly and that a new parish priest is appointed sooner rather than later!