Regular readers will, I hope, forgive me if what follows is more
than usually disjointed. Having just returned from my two weeks'
annual leave, I had to spend most of this day in Lichfield, returning
to find an anguished plea from our Editor (sorry!) for the November
musings... so here goes!
to the month to come, it will be dominated as ever by the theme
of remembrance. I am sure that many of you, like me, will have
been moved by the installation of the 800k plus ceramic poppies
that have been installed in the moat at the Tower of London?
Seeing this flood of red gradually spread around the Tower has
I find been most moving- each representing a life lost in the
conflict of 100 years ago - and I think we can take pride that
the poppies are being made here in the Potteries, within our
diocese and county. We will of course be making our own act of
remembrance here in Pattingham at 10.30am on Sunday 9 November.
Please note the time - this is later than our usual service time
but held so that we can incorporate the 2 minutes' silence in
the service at 11am.
And the week before ( 2 Nov) we shall have remembered those more
personal losses of loved ones - both from the recent and more
distant past. In a year which has seen so much loss - both through
the violence of extremism in the Middle East, and the violence
of virulent disease in West Africa, I think these occasions will
have an added poignancy.
The other major
theme this month will be a different sort of remembrance - our
Digging Deeper Campaign which gets under way this coming Sunday
- 26 October, but which will be gearing up as we move through
the month and which will I hope also give us all a good excuse
(if such is needed?) to talk more widely in the community about
the work and value of our church, here at the heart of our community.
Asking people to remember that we too have costs to cover in
the day to day operation of our presence and purpose. I am unapologetic
in stating and celebrating that our whole community would be
impoverished if the church were not here and able to play a big
part in our communal life. I know that financial pressures are
real for many - and I don't want anyone to feel 'put off' or
intimidated - the church is here for us all - whatever our income
(or lack of it!), but if you are able to remember us when you
are budgeting for the year ahead, that would be wonderful.
So back to
my Lichfield outing today.... The purpose was to attend an annual
lecture for the clergy that the Bishop organises. This year our
speaker was the Revd. Jo Bailey Wells, Chaplain to the Archbishop
of Canterbury - but also a distinguished academic theologian
in her own right (and wife of the current Vicar of St Martin
in the Fields!). Jo spoke - very engagingly - about her work
(some fascinating insights as to the ways in which Justin Welby
works and the changes he has instituted at Lambeth Palace) She
took as her theme "Traditioned Innovation" - which
might sound like a bit of a contradiction in terms, but is actually
very relevant to much of what we try to do here in Pattingham.
Valuing the past and maintaining our traditions, but being open
to the New and accepting the need for risk on occasions as we
journey onwards.... I am sure this is a theme to which I will
return in the months ahead...
Maureen (The Vicar!)
I have been
asked to explain a little about my change in title from "Priest
in Charge" to "Vicar".... This may get a little
involved, and it would help if you have ever read the 'Barchester
Chronicles' by Trollope (!), but here goes....
Once upon a
time (are you sitting comfortably?) a Rector or Vicar of a parish
possessed the freehold of the living (Parish) where he worked
(and it was nearly always a he in those days!) That is to say
that the parish was his until he chose to retire - or in the
days before that became compulsory at age 70, until he died.
If you look back at the list of vicars in this parish in the
last century, you will see what I mean. Very little could force
a priest with freehold to vacate his living - he was quite independent
of the Bishop in this respect, once he had been instituted into
the parish. Only if he did something (very naughty!) against
the law or canons of the Church could action be taken to remove
him - however good, bad or indifferent he was.
When a parish
fell vacant - i.e., during an interregnum, the Bishop could decide
to 'suspend the living' of the parish. This was often done when
there was a possibility of needing to combine parishes... a benefice
might then comprise of 2 or more parishes . (in parts of East
Anglia today there are benefices of 11,12,13 or even more churches/parishes!)
When a cleric was appointed, they would then find themselves
appointed 'priest in charge' .... they would serve the parish
in precisely the same way, but would be less secure in their
post and much more prone to the Bishop's whim and direction.
This was broadly
the situation when I was appointed in 2009. I left the security
of a 'freehold post' (I was Rector of Baschurch, Weston Lullingfields
and Hordley) and accepted Pattingham as Priest in Charge, knowing
that it was only a 0.5 post, but because I knew and trusted our
current crop of Bishops - and I really wanted to come here and
to do the other 0.5 of my job, working with my clergy colleagues
on their professional training and development.
But about the
same time, the means by which clergy are employed went through
something of a seismic shift in organisational terms. You see,
legally we are not employed at all, but are 'Office Holders'
- operating under the licence of our Bishop. (This is a bit like
being an MP) But (following one or two rather messy legal challenges)
the Government threatened the Church of England that if they
did not clear up certain employment anomalies, they (the Govt.)
would intervene with employment law.... Wanting to avoid this
(with memories that stretch back to the conflict between Crown
and Church at the time of Thomas a Becket!) the Church of England
introduced something called Common Tenure - which applies in
future to ALL clergy in the church of England. This means that
Priests in Charge now enjoy greater security, but all clergy
are subject in theory to competency procedures as well as disciplinary
procedures.... which means that the work I do on professional
development is even more vital.
So we have greater security, but are also more accountable -
bringing us into line with other professions; teaching, medicine
and the law.
So some years
ago the Bishop said that he saw no reason not to restore the
living to Pattingham - which would mean that I could be a Vicar,
rather than a Priest in Charge. This was also an acknowledgement
that this is a lively and developing parish, focused on growth
and not simply sitting back on its laurels and comparative affluence.
Getting all the paperwork in order was another story - and one
beset by documents lost between the Archdeacon's office and the
Registry (the legal officers of the diocese). And then we had
to sort out the patronage as Lady Barbara decided to pass on
her responsibilities to her son Michael Kwiatkowski (thankfully
some months before she died). In theory, Michael could have objected
and insisted on his right to present an alternative candidate
to the parish - and the PCC might also have requested that the
'post' be advertised as vacant again... but I am very grateful
that neither of these two eventualities occurred and I was able
to be confirmed in post as Vicar of Pattingham on 25th September,
2014 - although it is still a 0.5 post - but still, I am the
first Vicar of this parish in over 20 years. Phew!!!
So now you
know.... and it all makes absolutely no difference to the work