Priest's Page...

'Maureen's Musings'

November 2014

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!

Looking forward 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...

Every blessing,
Maureen (The Vicar!)

What's in a name?

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 I do!