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Vicars are a bunch of self-interested, southern softies

Or so says this report in the Independent:

Unemployed clergy are twice as likely to look for work in the South-East as in the North of England. In London, it takes on average just four months to fill a vacancy, with three vicars applying for every post, according to research by The Church Times…In Guildford, Surrey, there are an average of four vicars going for each job. But in York it takes a year to fill a vacancy, with just two vicars typically coming forward for each post. In Manchester, there is often only one candidate.

Thus far, we have some straightforward facts about the different challenges in appointing clergy to posts. But this is set within some confident interpretation:

Regional prejudice among vicars is seeing fierce competition for jobs in the South of England, while churches in the North struggle to find anyone willing to lead their congregations, senior religious figures have warned.

And this is backed up by comments from various clergy themselves.

“When a London parish comes free, clergy are queuing up to fill the vacancy. Compare that to my former parish on a Hartlepool housing estate, which was recently vacant for more than two years, and you see a rather frightening reflection of the spiritual health of the Church of England.”

“Christians are meant to believe in a Gospel that calls them to serve in the risky places and to express a bias to the poor, and the clergy who rise to that challenge find it to be incredibly rewarding.”

churchSo the fact is that southern posts are easier to fill, and the interpretation is that clergy prefer a soft option. Does that stand up to scrutiny? Perhaps, to some degree, but it is worth reflecting on two other issues that are not mentioned.

First, to follow a call to ordination means, for many, giving up secure and well-paid jobs to do something which, frankly, no longer commands much respect in society. So there is always a sense of sacrifice, even if you are in an ‘easier’ area to minister.

Second, I find it fascinating that there is little practical analysis included in either the Independent article or, I think, the Church Times article on which it is based.

Here’s the thing. When I was thinking about training and ordination, I was single and in my twenties, but even then was mindful of my responsibilities to ageing parents. They lived in Kent, and I reckoned I shouldn’t be more than about two hours’ away from them, just in case. After all,

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Tim 5.8)

So I drew a line two hours from Kent, which reached as far as Nottingham—and that’s where I went. Since then, by an act of what I can only describe as unbridled stupidity, someone decided that people should be ordained at an older age. That means that most entering training, and looking for posts, are likely to have an even more serious commitment to looking after parents. They are also more likely to be married and have children, which means that they have numerous other responsibilities to consider. I would treat with suspicion any church leader who is willing to risk his or her children’s future for the sake of God’s call in the present. I know that inner cities can be rich places of learning, but they don’t always feel like that if they are a culture alien to your background and values.

All this means that clergy are likely to want to stay in the region from which they came—not out of selfishness, but out of responsibility. (A little known fact: more than 50% of the UK population die in the local authority area in which they were born. We are not nearly as mobile as we think.)

Here’s another thing. Given that clergy are less mobile, where they are deployed is going to depend a lot more on where they come from. And where do they come from? It’s not well known, because nobody really asks. In fact, the information is available, but no-one seems to think it is important to do something with this information, since no-one appears to be thinking nationally and strategically about clergy training and deployment. If you don’t believe me, just consider this further comment from the Independent.

The problem is exacerbated by the lack of religious training colleges in the north of England, with newly trained vicars more likely to stay in areas where they have studied. In an attempt to redress the balance, St Mellitus College, London, opened a new campus in Liverpool last year.

Let me just go over that again: there is so little training provision in the Northern Province that there has to be a college ‘plant’ from some people in London? So let’s just ignore the three residential colleges in the North (St John’s, Nottingham, Cranmer Hall, Durham and not forgetting Mirfield near Leeds [thanks Peter!]) and all the regional training courses—which are offering part-time training just as St Mellitus is doing—and do something resourced from the south. I guess this is marginally less crazy than paying for weekly train fares from Liverpool to London, past all these other institutions, which is what happened previously!

(I need to make clear that I don’t hold this against my friend Graham Tomlin, Principal of St Mellitus, or other St Mellitus staff, many of whom I know well; they are just responding creatively to the unplanned market created by the Hind report more than ten years ago. But let’s be clear: this is no strategy. Rather, it is the negation of strategy.)

Well, I did do something with the information we have. I looked at Usual Sunday Attendances across the different dioceses, (which is the main measure of church attendance) and then I compared this with the number of people recommended for ordination training. And this is what I found:

London Diocese generates twice as many ordination candidates per church attender as the second most productive diocese.

Read that carefully: not twice the average, but twice the second most productive diocese. In other words, a significantly disproportionate number of the ordination candidates actually come from London and the South East. This being the case, it is perhaps not surprising that, with ordination happening at an older age, many feel tied to this region as time goes on.

What is more surprising, though, is that no-one stopped to consider this before declaring that clergy are self-interested southern softies! And to my knowledge, other dioceses have not explored what they could learn from London in the vocations process. I am sure a large part of it is that people living in London are more likely to be thinking about future options, if they are in mobile jobs. But there must be other factors we could learn from as well.

megaphoneBut there is another thing we might want to consider here. Can we learn to be more charitable with one another? Would it be worth thinking a little more before criticising the clergy? Is this what our nation needs to hear—that those whom we might think of as called to serve are in fact serving their own interests? Could we be more sensitive to the intrusive media presence? It seems to me that, quite often, we actually need to get together in a room to chat about these things. Instead we grab a megaphone and shout across the road, forgetting that the whole street is listening.

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46 Responses to Vicars are a bunch of self-interested, southern softies

  1. Peter Waddell February 12, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    Great post – except for neglecting Mirfield! Or is that not a major college now?

  2. Will Cookson February 12, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    Good article. I spent my curacy in the north of England in Liverpool diocese. I knew when I took it that all my family were in the South East (and I came out of London diocese)and that my elderly grandmother would probably die during it.

    When it came to the end of my curacy I was very happy to look at the north and did so. But the diocese didn’t really engage with me or try and keep me. The posts offered didn’t fit me or my family. I ended up in Southwark (to my surprise). The complaint was being made back then as well BUT that was all it ever is a complaint that someone somewhere has to fix.

  3. Ian Paul February 12, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    Peter—whoa! Theological tradition spectacles need removing…especially as I have taught there! Will add in…though in fact in numbers terms it is not as big as the other two of course. But then, size isn’t everything…!

  4. Ian Paul February 12, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    Will, interesting comment about the diocese not trying to keep you…

  5. Beth February 12, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    This newspaper article pissed me off. Makes out clergy are really selfish. Doesn’t take into account that they are human beings who need friends, support systems and have families who need to be in the equation. “Go work in a really difficult area miles from friends, take your family, work for 6 tiny churches, live in a totally impractical 1960s crap vicarage and work 90 hour weeks and get whinged at. And don’t complain because God called you there” Because that is the reality of some of the job descriptions. It’s one thing moving for a job, its another when it involves your family and their lives which this article blindly misses. Also all the big church stuff happens down south. New Wine, Spring Harvest etc. So all the church growth, connected leaders stuf etc etc takes place miles away. Think the whole system needs a rethink anyway. It’s based on a culture and geographical social interaction and life pattern that doesn’t really exist anymore

  6. Katrin February 12, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    I tried to find a curacy in the north – unsuccessfully – over five years ago. I see nothing has changed in the meantime. Very sad.

  7. Elaine Kemp February 12, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    A good article Ian. I agree with you. Our sending diocese was Rochester who were more than grateful for us to go elsewhere as they didn’t have enough posts to offer their newly ordained curates. We went to Norwich diocese but my father had died whilst Trevor was training at Trinity Bristol and Trevor’s mother went into a nursing home. We felt we needed to be nearer my mother and Trevor’s father and near enough for Trevor to visit his mother so we ended up in Surrey on the outer reaches of Southwark diocese. Now we’ve moved to Gloucester but it was not a popular option with all the family and was really only an option because we had made the decision to send Simeon to boarding school. Finding the right point to move on with four children is quite a challenge and moving about during their education was very difficult for one of ours in particular.

    Anyone who thinks ministry in the South is the soft option should come and work in rural Gloucestershire. Nine churches in six parishes with no house for duty priest is a daily challenge. This post was advertised three times, no one applied the first time, the second they felt non of the applicants were suitable and the third Trevor was the only applicant they interviewed! I think it’s a myth that the only ‘proper’ ministry is being done in the North and in urban areas. We may live in a beautiful part of the country but it has very different and equally challenging issues.

  8. Ross Garner February 12, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    I have returned to the North West (after an interesting three year mission trip in Kent) to Manchester Diocese, to a team of three parishes that had experienced a three year vacancy. My calling to the North West, as Ian says, is largely due to aging parents being in this part of the world. When my wife’s mother was in hospital it was a 6 hour journey each way to visit her from Kent.

    The calling to a team of parishes with significant pockets of deprivation is part of a life-long calling to proclaim the gospel and to live amongst the urban poor. God placed this in my heart whilst I was at University back in 1979 as I heard some folk from the OK Club speaking at the Christian Union. (http://www.okclub.org.uk/)

  9. Ian Paul February 12, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Beth ‘they are human beings who need friends, support systems and have families who need to be in the equation’. Great point, well made! Thanks.

  10. David February 12, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Something I have noticed is that evangelical Christianity seems to do very well in the wealthy parts of the country – particularly London and the home counties. There’s lots of large churches with equally large budgets. It’s always struck me as rather ironic – people who are well-off are more likely to be Christians than those who are poor.

    Equally, the statistic about ordinands was fascinating. And, as you say, people tend to stay near their roots. So it sounds like there are more potential candidates in the south-east.

    A related topic is the background of ordinands – my understanding is that graduates (and particularly oxbridge graduates) are significantly over-represented.

  11. Richard Pennystan February 12, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    Excellent post, particularly the conclusion.
    here’s my response (from a Facebook post)

    As a middle class Southernor who God called to leave London and move elsewhere (which happened to be North) I certainly know the stats in this add up and they’ve highlighted a trend. As others have highlighted, I can see around me that God is addressing that trend through calling not synodical strategy.
    The conclusion of the article is based on a monochrome presupposition about ministry which is that its worthy to work in more deprived areas and selfish to work in middle class areas. IMHO That’s bunkum.
    1. If we’re obedient, God calls us and places us where we’ll bear fruit, there are joys and challenges in every part of the country.
    a. He calls us where the gifts he’s equipped us with will be fruitful.
    b. His call is seasonal, and often that’s to mature us to be more fruitful. So he might move us around.
    c. ‘cross cultural’ mission has its growth points and challenges and can be draining. There are real cultural contrasts in our nation (not just regional, but that’s a major factor) and so the question I want to ask is what needs to change in our churches, dioceses and training centres to enable a wider range of people from all backgrounds in the UK hear the call of God into ordained ministry and be encouraged & empowered in it?
    P.S. my vicarage is much nicer than most vicarages I’ve seen in the South!

  12. Wendy February 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    A further topic would be the statistics around the selection process. Do we know the background of those not recommended, or indeed where there vocation takes them if not into ordination?

  13. John Leach February 12, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    Desperate though I am for a job, I couldn’t agree more with Beth. We have discounted areas of the country (many of them in the South, by the way) where we have no readily available friends for support, escaping etc. For me it isn’t about geography, much more about where my life will be centred. Anyway, Sheffield is the best place in the country, with Newcastle-on-Tyne a close second. Generalisations are ALWAYS wrong.

  14. Simon February 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Great post that articulates much of what I thought and felt on reading the CT article. Just one thought, though – wasn’t St. Johns once a plant/relocation from the South?

  15. Jean Walker February 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    I agree with Beth’s last sentence and John too. I think we would do well to re-consider Michael Green’s 1977 chapter on Mission and Ministry in ‘Obeying Christ in a Changing World'(2. Perhaps one of the worst things that happened to the Church ‘is the professionalization of the Clergy’

    Perhaps we need more people whose security is not in salary but in God. More non-stipendaries working with the deprived and needy. We need to find and enable maturing people of God in the Housing Estates, among the poor and less educated who can make community and show Christ’s love. We have to trust God that he has it all in his hands, our families parents and all. When I moved north to a University lectureship, my parents living as OAPs in a tied cottage decided to up and come north to live with me. That involved hardship and sacrifice but we survived- and God is good!

  16. Jean Walker February 12, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    Also like to commend the story of Wallace and Mary Brown in a tough Birmingham housing estate-‘Angels on the Walls’ 2000

  17. Ian Paul February 12, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    David, ‘people who are well-off are more likely to be Christians than those who are poor’ thought that is not true either globally or historically, which is the real challenge.

  18. Ian Paul February 12, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    John ‘Generalisations are ALWAYS wrong.’ I can see I need to add a ‘like’ button to this blog!

  19. Barry February 12, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    I grew up in Durham diocese, served a curacy in Durham diocese, under Mark Bryant (quoted in the article) and when it finished there was no job available for me in Durham diocese (or for 2-3 of my intake of peers). So my family and I had to leave my home area (the North-East) and like many a lad from up north, ended up working in the South East. But Bishops are always right…

  20. Michael Leyden February 12, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    Great piece, Ian, as usual. I agree that wider considerations are frequently overlooked when accusing clergy of selfishness. I wonder if the counterbalancing question might be why are there fewer vocations generated from the Northern Province? (i.e. if clergy tend not to move, and therefore are fewer clergy in the Northern Prov. then this seems to be the logical conclusion. I don’t know about stats.).

    In a sense that what drives the St Mellitus North West: The St Aidan’s Centre project. It was an interesting reflection on St Mellitus North West in the article, and accurate in the sense that the initial resources come from the SE. But the oversight in the account, especially the one in the Church Times, is that we are a partnership with 5 North West Dioceses – not a straight forward “plant” – and this is the first time there has been a full-time training institution in the North West for nearly 50 years. (It is full time training in NW, not part time, by the way). This kind of collaboration works well, and is really fruitful.

  21. Ian Paul February 12, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    Michael ‘I wonder if the counterbalancing question might be why are there fewer vocations generated from the Northern Province?’ Spot on. I hinted at this near the end, but didn’t want to ask outright. But it needs to be asked.

    In relation the St Mellitus ‘plant’, if there was so much local collaboration, why the need to badge it with that name? Why not collaborate with one of the northern colleges? I am not sure there was even the suggestion of collaboration with St John’s.

    And is it really full time? Do people get full-time funding from MinDiv? They don’t for the London branch.

  22. Mark Ashcroft February 12, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Helpful article Ian. I think that one of the key issues is perception of the north; even your article could be interpreted as saying everywhere in the North is tough and gritty which is obviously false. Manchester is an hour and 15 mins from the Lake district has great music, theatre, shops, football teams etc etc and has leafy suburbs. That’s why it is helpful for colleges to be based in the North and for southern colleges to offer placements as Westcott House does in Manchester.

    I also think the friends and family and education perspective can be overplayed. Having served in a parish in one of the 1% most deprived areas, and sent our children to local schools, they have done brilliantly well academically (firsts from Oxford and Cambridge) socially, friends wise and in their characters. We have also found some excellent friends and support networks. I am amazed at how richly blessed we have been by God.

    However, like others, I have felt a strong call to serve here and admire those who tough it out in well heeled, self sufficient communities where people’s sense of lostness is harder to articulate.

  23. Michael Leyden February 12, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

    Yes, I picked up the subtle reference: any ideas what the answer is?

    The funding problem will be addressed because there is a slight imbalance at present, but yes it is really full time. 3 days study, 3 days placement for the full duration of your training, and one day off. I’m afraid I don’t know why St John’s Nottingham was never approached – though I do remember us having a conversation about it at the Grove residential a couple of years ago – but there is a great deal of collaboration, like I say, between St Mellitus and the 5 North West Dioceses. It was the initiative of the Dioceses, not St Mellitus. We support Diocesan vocations projects, our ordinands all come from the NW Dioceses etc. Hence the double-barrelled name, St Mellitus North West: The St Aidan’s Centre. It works very well, and means there is full time training available in a part of the country where that hasn’t been the case for 50 years.

  24. Jen February 12, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    I found the original article enough to make my blood boil! As someone who severed under the quoted bishop, I have watched person after person leave, after training because there was nothing suitable (and they weren’t being picky), after Curacy (because there were no posts suitable and any available we’re told not to bother applying for) and after other posts because of the lack of support from the hierarchy. And many of them have gone on to bless other areas of the massively. My favourite quote after another interview that said no was that I was just too missional…

    And that’s before we get to have numbers are managed for finance, the parish I served in, went into vacancy and profile etc was prepared and ready to go after 6 weeks, it took the diocese over 6 more months before the advertised it and then other 3 to interview and 3 more before the appointed person could start post, no wonder we have long vacancies!
    I love the north east and determined to serve here, but the only way I could do that was to move out of the diocese system and work for a charity.

  25. Ian Paul February 12, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    Thanks, Mark–very encouraging.

  26. Ian Paul February 12, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Michael, there are lots of complex reasons. But I think if you look carefully, you will find more commitment to mission, more innovation, and more creative leadership in some dioceses than others–just don’t think I ought to be more specific about dioceses I am not part of!

    But here’s my experience: in my previous diocese I saw the bishop remove references to mission within the structures, move missional people out of key roles, and evangelicals put under pressure. Giving was 10th lowest of dioceses in one of the wealthiest regions of the country. And, surprise, surprise, vocations dropped almost to nil. One year the diocese sent no ordinands, whilst I knew in Chelmsford diocese there were 103 ordinands in the processes.

    So there are some tough questions to be asked here about theological tradition and ethos.

  27. Ian Paul February 12, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    On the training institution question, you know I have some views! I can understand why the dioceses approached St M and not St John’s—they must have looked a lot better. But there are some serious questions to be asked about such a pattern of training. I don’t know how your guys are getting full funding from MinDiv when London people are not.

    As I have exchanged with Graham Tomlin on Twitter: Hind turned theological education into a market, and what has happened demonstrates the strengths of that. There is innovation (though only with a massive investment of private funding) and those with good ideas, good reputations and lots of money will thrive.

    But there is another side too. St M and St M NW have added two more institutions at a time when there are not enough ordinands to go round. No-one at the centre will make decisions–that was too painful before–so I suspect in the next five years two existing colleges will close. But these will be slow, painful deaths.

    The focus of the post, though, was on national planning for deployment. I am just surprised there isn’t pressure from more northern bishops to form some sort of national plan on vocations. What people seem to be slow to pick up on is that, in human terms, the C of E is certain to continue into decline—and all for the single, simple and completely predictable reason, the shortage of clergy.

  28. Ian Paul February 12, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

    Michael, I’ve just checked with Sean Doberty, and St M NW is NOT funded as full-time training by MinDiv. So it might take all of an ordinands’ time, but it is part-time from the Cof E point of view.

    That means the other half (or more) needs to be funded by individuals or local churches. And this explains why residential colleges were not talked to: it would have made the actually full time training more expensive.

    This is even more worrying as a trend: a move to de facto self-funded or locally funded training, so that full, central costs are hidden. And done so without considering issues of training, but focussing only on a budget line (not even on the question of cost).

    Seriously incoherent…

  29. SeekTruthFromFacts February 12, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    1. Do you know Oak Hill also has a branch in Liverpool now, in conjunction with the North West Partnership? Confirms your points about lack of strategy, or alternatively a more grassroots-driven approach.
    2. I’m a bit disappointed by the comments about children. You are right to say that we must put family responsibilities first and you have freedom to decide about your family. But you don’t even seem to think it’s controversial to suggest that lack of (upper?

  30. SeekTruthFromFacts February 12, 2014 at 11:41 pm #

    -)middle class schools means someone should rule out a ministry option. You might like to restate what you mean, because you can’t mean that the hundreds of vicars serving in risk Africa have actually made a mistake. Do you admit children to baptism and/or communion? If so, why are they exempt from the joy of carrying out the Great Commission?

  31. Ian Paul February 13, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    No, I had no idea that Oak Hill did that. Yes, this looks more incoherent than ever: two London colleges competing for ordinands in a region. Barking.

    My comment on children was not quite what you say: the negative of a negative is not the same as a positive. What I am saying is that questions of family responsibility (upwards or downwards) are unlikely to have no effect, so the lack of national mobility cannot simply be accounted for by selfishness. There might be other factors, and the commentators and author have not bothered to think about that.

    And therefore they miss asking more important questions, like why do some dioceses not generate vocations.

  32. Stephen Watkinson February 13, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    The Oak Hill north is really something that has been developed through the North West Partnership (http://www.northwestpartnership.com/), so it is locally based and the intention is to help students in the NW train locally and part-time. It is also not accredited by the CoE and has free church people involved. I also can’t find anything on the web about it now and am wondering if it is still running.

  33. Richard Moy February 13, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Dear Ian and friends,

    What a great post. We recently moved from one of the poorest cities in the Midlands to London W4, where e.g. toddler activities cost up to £16 per 45mins; music lessons are £40 / hour. Nursery places are £70+ per day, and if you want to play tennis on a public court it’s £12 an hour off peak… The milk in our corner shop was exactly twice as expensive as the milk in our previous corner shop when we moved.

    As the London stipend is same/lower as my previous it costs us far more to be here in London.

    That having been said it’s a lovely life here, but strange or not we reckon our friends and neighbours were more content in our previous context without going on 3/4 foreign holidays a year and holding down 70+ hour a week jobs… who knew?

    I came here because God called me here. My Mum is thrilled that I am now only an hour away, and as we don’t have weekends to go visit on, that makes a big difference in filial love and duties.

    If we ever move on we’ll be very open to God sending us wherever he likes and we can be most effective. It’s working out pretty well so far right here.

    Big blessings all

    Richard

  34. John Gay February 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    Not every South-East job is desirable. The post I hold in rural West Sussex, 40 miles from London was vacant for 18 months and advertised twice before it came my way. I know some others looked at it but didn’t fancy it.

  35. Ian Paul February 13, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    thanks–but surely you mean ‘They did not discern that God was calling them to it’!

  36. Anne February 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    I moved to my current post soon after I had married because my husband had just got a teaching job in the south east (which paid far more than my clergy stipend). In past generations when it was much less common for clergy spouses (wives,at that time) to have their own careers, expecting clergy families to simply up-sticks and move was a more reasonable proposition. Now the reality is that many clergy families effectively rely on the non-clergy spouse’s income to make ends meet – prior to my marriage I had been the single parent of two teenagers, and if it hadn’t been for the help of the Sons of the Clergy and working families tax credit we would never have been able to manage. Clergy end up following the non-ordained partner’s job. If there is a national bias towards the south-east in the jobs market, there will also be a national bias towards the south-east for the clergy. While I might be entirely prepared to go anywhere (and had been in an inner city, deprived area) spouses may feel differently, or be unable easily to relocate.

  37. Paul February 15, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    Without wishing to seem anecdotal, it seems to me that ministry in the north is often far harder than ministry in the south. Having lived in (the Diocese of) London for many years, I moved to the north for my first incumbency. While the culture I experienced in churches in London was one of a desire to grow and an acceptance of new things, I have found churches in the north to be suspicious of new ideas and new people, and a model of church which looks more like a social club than a missional community. My clergy colleagues experience this, too, but think it is normal.

    I sense, though I may be wrong, that a big cultural change has happened in church life in the south, but that it has not begun to happen in the north. Maybe that is why clergy want to work in the south-east? – because growth is just so much easier there?

  38. Matt February 16, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    >I sense, though I may be wrong, that a big cultural change has happened in church life in the south, but that it has not begun to happen in the north.

    Perhaps the pertinent point is that such a culture change has taken a generation in London.

    Where is it happening in the North?

    Being a little provocative, is there anywhere else in the South where evidence of a culture change is convincing? Genuine question – I haven’t followed anywhere except London in detail.

  39. Sirach 2 February 20, 2014 at 12:07 am #

    > someone decided that people should be ordained at an older age <
    And they'll be such an incredible drag on your pension plan, too

  40. Ian Paul February 20, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    ‘Sirach’ I can’t tell whether this is a genuine observation or just sarcasm. This is in fact a major financial question for the C of E just now…

  41. Rob Bridgewater May 28, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    Just another clarification about Oak Hill in Liverpool. This project was first mooted about seven years ago and runs from the Liverpool Theological Centre, which is shared between the North West Gospel Partnership and Christ Church Liverpool. It does not train Ordinands. The need arose because many independent ministers in the region needed a local training course to prepare them well for gospel ministry, and so students there do the same two-year course as independent students down at Oak Hill in London. In turn, of course, the two-year course in London shares a great deal with the Anglican two year course.

    Most people at Oak Hill are from South of Birmingham, and I would think the majority are from the London area. There are a few of us from the North, and certainly we all hope, God willing, to return there if our dioceses have a space for us.

    I’m not sure about the one size fits all approach to regional training though – certainly for those who specifically look at training at say Queens in Birmingham, St Stephens in Oxford, or Oak Hill in London because of (respectively) their strength in say Liberal, AngloCatholic or Reformed traditions. If the Liverpool course had been accredited by the Church of England I think I might have preferred to train there; so perhaps more residential college satellites might actually be the answer?

    • Ian Paul May 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

      Thanks, Rob. You raise an interesting question about the extent to which training can accommodate both regional needs and the distinctives of different theological traditions…

      If only there was some mechanism by which Church of England training could follow some common pattern…!

  42. Andy Batchelor September 24, 2016 at 10:31 am #

    As a newly appointed member of the DDO team in a Northern diocese can I say we are painfully aware of the need to encourage and foster vocations from within, and much work is being done to improve the state of affairs up here!

  43. Mike Talbot September 24, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

    The popularity (or otherwise) of parishes isn’t simply a north/south matter. Large churches are finding it increasingly difficult to attract strong interest – often going round the recruitment loop 2 or 3 times (cf Emmanuel Northwood advertising yesterday having not appointed in the summer – with its previous Vicar enjoying the wonders of Carlisle!) My experience in London is that fewer folk are applying for jobs there than was the case a decade ago- a sign of a diminishing pool generally.

  44. Oliver Harrison September 24, 2016 at 8:40 pm #

    “I would treat with suspicion any church leader who is willing to risk his or her children’s future for the sake of God’s call in the present.” Then be suspicious of me.

    And wanting to be near ageing parents? Well if you’re an only child or they have particularly special needs but otherwise, again, no.

    The family (nuclear) is the new idol; we put it before God and everything else. (It also raised questions in my mind, issues of codependency etc.)

    Jesus’ teaching seems clear to me: Luke 14:26 (“hate your father and mother”)

    I’m a middle class Cotswolds boy, born in Oxford, grew up in Cheltenham. 8 years ago I was offered a Vicar job in Guildford Diocese which I turned down to come to a ordinary / crappy / average / poor (it’s all relative!) white working class tow in the Midlands.

    Final point: housing. Jobs in the C-of-E usually come with a house. My house (large 4 bed detached) is probably worth £1,000 pcm in rent. But in Oxford or North London it’s worth 4 or 5 times that. So a working spouse can “afford” (!) to live in a higher earning area without paying higher housing costs. That’s a massive subsidy and incentive.

  45. Kevin Scott September 25, 2016 at 10:13 pm #

    I spent my formative years in rural ministry. Friends in urban ministry would say: “We respect what you do, but the real business is in the urban,” I now minister in a suburb of Greater London; we have a parish of 13,000 people, 10% of whom are Muslim. Of course, I don’t have an MBA which counts against me under the current ABC regime. Should I be applying for for an authentic post up North?

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