on Saturday, 27 August 2022 at 11.53 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Andrew Godsall ViaMedia.News The Church and the Body: Becoming a Safe Space to Talk about Dating and Sex
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Binary Thinking in Anglican Churches. Is it likely to take over?
Church Times Leader comment: Uncovered: how clergy struggle to take holidays
I’m glad someone has noticed how hard it is to get cover for holidays. Here, a combination of vacant parishes and the holiday season has left both retired clergy and stipendiary clergy not on holiday very stretched. Deanery plans looking to reduce staffing don’t take such things into account, the ‘Clergy Well-being Covenant’ notwithstanding.
Although it would have been unthinkable even a few years ago, if it’s not possible to find cover then I think clergy should cancel services and signpost where the sacrament is being offered elsewhere in the deanery. As the CofE declines and parishes forced into larger groupings the problems will only get worse. Clergy trying to stretch themselves ever more thinly will eventually snap. It’s also important to remember that retired clergy are not an homogeneous group. Some will want to be busy, others less so and others not at all. Some retired clergy are disillusioned with the CofE and… Read more »
The difficulty with cancelling services is that it sends out a very unhelpful message if people turn up at the usual time to find the door closed and locked. I have wrestled with the whole question of how the Church of England manages the same number of buildings with smaller numbers of clergy and have concluded that whatever we do it’s going to be wrong.
Another hindrance for retired clergy is the bureacracy around getting and renewing PTO. A local clergyman was told, when renewing PTO, that he had to provide passport, driving licence, original birth certificate and original marriage certificate. Yes, all four. In the congregation at the time, there were four retired clergy, all active and willing to provide holiday cover. But none of them had PTO. In the past month public worship has been cancelled in a number of local churches for lack of cover. Maybe a legacy of lockdown is that some clergy have become used to cancelling public worship. Clergy… Read more »
How, I wonder, does this affect non-driving staycationing unwed clergy?
I suspect that the requirement for those documents is in order to renew a enhanced DBS certificate – which is a legal requirement for those who might be put in a place of trust over vulnerable people (which include the elderly as well as young children and adults with specific vulnerabilities). As this is a requirement of statute law, it is not within the power of the Church (of England) to dispense people from that requirement. Of course, if a priest is not will willing to obtain an Enhanced DBS certificate, then that is their decision. But the Church has… Read more »
Are you seriously suggesting that foreign travel, married status and ability to drive a car are legal requirements? As far as I can see, foreign travellers are the worst.
Not at all. Assuming that NJW is correct — and I think he is — the legal requirement is to prove your identity. The precise requirements involve producing three documents with some rather elaborate rules about what they can be: see gov.uk/criminal-record-check-documents
The DBS is a legal requirement and the documents mentioned are the commonest way to prove identity which is needed to get the DBS – though other documents are possible for those who e.g. do not have a passport.
I am not suggesting that ‘foreign travel, married status and ability to drive a car are legal requirements’ for a DBS – but I am seriously suggesting that a DBS application (which is a legal requirement) requires that you provide a minimum of three documents to prove your identity, your current address and support any change of name. A passport is the easiest way to prove identity, a driving licence proves address, and a marriage certificate is a record of the most common occasion when someone’s name has changed. (Of course, there are other routes to prove ID and address… Read more »
No-one needs to produce all of those to renew a DBS certificate. I have recently renewed mine and didn’t need to produce all those. I can’t imagine why someone would be asked to provide all that, though it is perfectly possible that the diocese in question was being over-zealous. I recall one conversation with a priest who had PTO in two dioceses as he lived very close to the diocesan boundary. Having completed safeguarding training in one diocese he was then asked to repeat it in the other, and decided not to renew his PTO in the second diocese rather… Read more »
It is not the church’s rule. DBS are not / were not portable so you needed one in each sphere where one was required – in this case two dioceses. I know a bishop who had five.
But that doesn’t explain why a cleric has to do the same training multiple times. Are you saying that the bishop you know goes through the same training five times over?
I think that, since the C of E has national safeguarding training which is delivered in the same way in every diocese, the certificates you receive on successful completion of the leadership and domestic abuse modules must be portable within the C of E. It’s the same training in every diocese. But I’ve not tested that. I don’t mind doing multiple DBS certificates (I had 3 before retirement). But I was less happy about doing separate safeguarding training (and two PREVENTs, etc) for the two C of E VC schools I was a governor of. They chose different training providers.… Read more »
Immediately confessing total ignorance of the subject, other than a glance at the Government DBS website (possibly not their clearest), doesn’t the DBS check apply to the person and not the premises where they are to ‘operate’? It seems there are different levels of DBS, the most basic being appropriate for ‘leading prayer meetings’. A different level will doubtless be necessary for a priest, or a director of music with children (and adults) under their jurisdiction. Any compulsion of duplication seems to have been introduced by the Church (Archbishops’ guidelines ?). Shouldn’t one DBS – at the appropriate level –… Read more »
I would have thought so, Rowland. I have PTO in Lichfield. I live within 2 miles south and west of the diocesan boundary with Derby. I thought I’d apply for PTO in Derby since there are an awful lot of vacancies in south Derbyshire. Having been ordained in Derby cathedral – twice – and served my title and first post there I thought they’d have all my details on file in Duffield, so it wouldn’t be that difficult other than the DBS – surely the training for Lichfield would do. Not a bit of it. Forms galore, meetings with Bishop… Read more »
I’m afraid it is too simplistic! The regulations regarding DBS checks (the government ones, not Church ones!) are that they are only valid for the sponsoring body (which in the CofE is normally the diocese). Unless the person concerned pays to upgrade the DBS to be portable (in which case you are correct, the one DBS can then be transferred to different bodies), then a new check is required for each institution. Thus a parish priest conceivably needs one to be the parish priest, another for the local church school, a third for being hospital chaplain, etc. The only way… Read more »
Thank you. So there is a simple remedy to the problem, but it costs money! (Why should that fall on the individual priest in the example you quote?). Is it really beyond the C of E to fund a ‘portable’ DBS when one is clearly needed? Charles Read mentions a bishop with five!
Surely the law doesn’t require people to be married and have a passport before they can get a DBS check? There must be other proofs of identity that can be offered.
Michael H. Getting pto once every three years really isn’t that complicated. And it is necessary for all concerned. I have to assume the four priests you mention prefer not to be active in ministry?
You only need passport for PTO. DBS probably requires 2 documents. Bishop’s office needs to get a life.
Good thing I’m not looking for PTO, since I don’t have a passport.
Or other proof of ID.
Since the church is promoting carbon neutrality it seems strange that the church ever asks for a passport.
Surely any serious-minded and sincere church person would be fully on board with the carbon neutral agenda. Indeed, any supplicant for ordination who by having a passport demonstrates that they might be inclined to pollute the skies should as a matter of course be turned down at a BAP. Senior staff who travel to conferences and such like would be required to seek an indulgence from Blessed Greta. Diocesans whose territories include islands must learn to row. Please, please, please read Skyseed by Bill McGuire. https://climatecultures.net/portfolio/geoengineering-skyseed/
And don’t forget that virtual meetings (Zoom, Facetime, MS Teams, and Google Meet, and the rest) also incur a carbon cost. Using the internet is not environmentally neutral, although it might be better than some of the alternatives. The Barchester clergy meetings, travelling on foot or by horse, are probably about the best example!
In idle moments I’ve pondered the expense of resurrecting clerical equine transport. Think of the job opportunities: (stable hands, vets, trainers, etc), and the opportunities for income generation from the sale of high quality consecrated ordure, and betting on horse racing competitions (parish, deanery, diocese) for both speed (eastern dioceses would do well) and endurance (Carlisle – all those hills – would win that I think). Travelling to church by fossil fuel powered transport (and as you imply electricity is by no means innocent) should be banned. The future with fewer meetings is a most attractive prospect. And if one… Read more »
There’d also be an element of oneupmanship with some clergy arriving at the cathedral on old nags whilst the bishop arrives like Tonto on a thoroughbred. Archdeacons would have to train as knacker men or women to quickly despatch the lame (horses).
As a humorous side note, Tonto’s mount (named “Scout”) was not a thoroughbred but a Pinto,
There are plenty of hills in North Yorkshire, and I’m sure our horses would do well for endurance.
I saw a comment recently that it’s not hypocrisy, it’s hierarchy. Leaders are entitled to consume fossil fuels to travel while imposing restrictions on the rest of us because they are more important, that’s all.
It’s a relief to read that others share a sense of humour. I’ve sometimes felt that TA attracts the worthy but humourless prefects. All in all it seems many of us look forward to a future in which the pace of life changes for the better.
Agreed. colour me selfish if you like, but when I retire at the end of 2023, I would like to spend at least the first year of Sundays sitting beside my wife in church, after what will then have been 44 years of sitting separately.
Cancelling services seems a little extreme. The CofE has provision (if memory serves) for services to happen in the absence of clergy – the churchwarden leads morning prayer from the BCP. More relevantly, perhaps the CofE needs to look to the practice of the SEC, where priests are few and far between, and communion by extension is relatively common. Not a substitute for the Eucharist, of course, but still allowing access to the sacrament.
It’s interesting how we’ve become a church that can’t worship together unless there is an ordained/licensed person there to lead it. Perhaps that’s part of the problem.
If the church you come to for the first time is not completely independent, and part of a larger organisation, some kind of licence or permission means that the person leading the service is accountable in some way for what they say and do, which is important.
Accountability is fine, but some of the discussion above implies that ‘cover’ needs to be other clergy. With a bit of training and encouragement there are plenty of lay folk in our congregations capable of reading the bible out loud, or leading a time of prayer (whether liturgical or silent). There would probably be more if they didn’t have to do it from the front of church but could do it in a slightly less formal setting. I wonder if our definitions of ministry and worship are as much of a problem as clergy availability.
I enjoyed spending time with a French diocese who worked on a three-week rhythm for most smaller parish churches. Week one was service of the word, led by a lay “equipe liturgique”, with an aspect of preparing for the following week. Week 2 was mass, with a priest present. Week 3 was again led by the equipe liturgique, and church members were encouraged to talk about how last week’s message impacted their week. And then it was back to week 1 again. Of course, the scheme is influenced by the availability of priests – but also by the experience that… Read more »
We haven’t become that. We have always been that. The exercise of due authority is part of our inherited ecclesial discipline.
I find this all quite interesting. In TEC (or in the Diocese of Pennsylvania at any rate), any lay person can lead morning or evening prayer. We’ve done it frequently in my parish when the rector and the deacon are both unavailable.
In practice the pool of lay people who are permitted to lead worship here is expanding. Several dioceses have schemes to encourage Authorised Worship Assistants, lay people who have had some training and who have been through the appropriate level of safeguarding check and are authorised to lead non-eucharistic worship. I suspect that there will be people leading worship who are not authorised to do so, but the expectation remains that only those with appropriate authority should do so. If nothing else, I would imagine that the church’s insurers will require those in any role that involves leading anything to… Read more »
The US equivalent of a DBS, which is done on a state-by-state basis, applies only to those with a direct supervisory position over minors. Thus, our choir leader, our rector, and our youth minister all need one, but someone who is simply standing before a congregation and leading it in prayer on an occasional basis does not.
My thoughts exactly, David. Except that I’d say Anglicanism has always been clerically elitist, and that’s what congregations are used to, so much ao that if anyone proposes anyting different, they’re accused of being un-Anglican.
My wife and I regularly attend a local Mennonite church when we’re on holiday. Usually the pastor only preaches the sermon (and leads Holy Communion, which they have once a month). The rest of the service is led by worship leaders from the congregation, some of whom also preach from time to time. When the pastor is on holiday, the worship leaders carry right on with that, and they make some provision for preaching or teaching (the form varies). It’s all very sustainable and there never seems to be any problem getting services covered from within the congregation.
Sadly I think that we’re a long way off the Church being a safe space for either straight or queer people to talk about sex and dating. The interminable LLF process is an indication of the coy attitudes to human coupling prevalent in the CofE. When the starting point is one of inequality between queer sexuality and heterosexuality how can the CofE authentically offer itself as a facilitator for such discussions let alone as a ‘safe’ space. Any cleric espousing a view or personal experience, other than in accordance with the CofE’s heteronormative position could quickly find themselves on a… Read more »
How many clergy have been subject to a CDM for espousing a view on sexuality that is not in accordance with this heteronormative position?
Quite. Matters of ‘doctrine’ are explicitly excluded from the CDM and you certainly can’t be CDM’d for espousing views at odds with your bishop’s, or there’d be hardly a clergyperson in the country left standing.
You’re missing my point. This post was in response to an article about safe spaces to talk about sex outside of heterosexual marriage. What cleric in a civil partnership is going to be able to admit that they and their partner are not in fact celibate as the bishop coyly expects, but are in fact going at it hammer and tongs most nights? What single priest is going to admit that he or she has had a succession of lovers over the years since ordination and enjoys sex without a contractual commitment? I think either scenario would have the archdeacon… Read more »
It was you who introduced the word “views” into this discussion. That’s not the same as actions. Do I take it that you know of no cases where any clergy have been subject to a CDM for espousing a view on sexuality that is not in accordance with this heteronormative position?
‘Or personal experience’
Perhaps we need to look across the Channel to France. With an acute shortage of priests the laity have in many places been galvanized. Equipes Notre Dame with a priest advisor are often running parishes and leading worship on say 3 Sundays a month: ADAP .assemblie doninicale dans absence d’un pretre. Organising catechesis and marriage preparation. My French penfriend is licensed to take funerals and has done in the last ten years probably as many as I did in my whole ministry in London.
We already have an army of LLMs / Readers who are often overlooked by clergy colleagues who are fixated on the lack of priests. This won’t help with lack of Eucharists of course but why are we not valuing what we have got and using these highly trained lay people more effectively in ministry? In my diocese I find, for example, LLMs who are trained to take funerals are often overlooked when parishes in vacancy are looking for someone to take a funeral.
Currently in our parish in western Canada I have two excellent honorary assistant clergy, but we also have a few lay readers, and they are very capable of leading services in my absence. My previous diocese in northern Alberta had very few retired clergy; there, when clergy were on holiday it was all hands on deck with the lay readers. It was just expected that they would lead the services until the clergy returned.
I very much agree with this. However my own experience as an LLM, supporting my wife who was Priest for four country parishes, was that most parishioners wanted Eucharists and weren’t happy with Morning Prayer,,Very difficult to manage.
Quite David. Some of us value the sacraments and look at least for a weekly Mass, in some cases daily. I’ve heard some shocking sermons since I retired, the worst was from a Reader in south London who read a story about a lumberjack at Mass. There was no reference to Scripture and no discernible theology either. In fact a primary school child would have struggled to see what the point was about this ‘nice’ story.
I agree Charles. I can’t see why there shouldn’t be a service at the same time each Sunday in every church where possible.A service of the Word say two or three even Sundays a month. Only in the last 50 or so years have regular church folk been weekly communicants. Perhaps bishops might try and galvanise the clergy along these lines. Froghole on TA has often commented on the diminishing provision of public worship in some places. We collude with decline
“Binary Thinking in Anglican Churches. Is it likely to take over?” Yes, I think it already has in the broader Anglican Communion. Otherwise we still wouldn’t have provinces trying to dictate their mores to other provinces and Lambeth conferences with resolutions that don’t resolve anything. From my perspective, it is a feature, not a bug, of Christianity. possibly acquired from Judaism and Greek philosophy. Two decades ago, which now seems like prehistoric times in the USA political cycle thanks to the most recent ex-president of the USA, during the 2000 election crisis, a local newspaper columnist by the name of… Read more »
While it wasn’t too hard to guess, for a moment I was puzzled as to whether this was a complaint by a progressive about the conservative wing gaining the upper hand, or by a conservative about the progressives.
The problem of solely ‘binary’ thinking on matters of gender and sexuality is right at the heart of the current arguments in our churches on what is ethically understood to be either ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’. Because of this ancient theory – which many people discern as being the teaching of Scripture (although Jesus did talk about human beings called ‘eunuchs’ – humans not disposed towards procreation). Jesus, himself – as the ‘perfect human being’ – did not contribute toward the binary production of children. Obviously, his status as a eunuch was described, by Jesus, as being so ‘for the sake… Read more »
Scientific observation – not available when the Scriptures were written – has since revealed the existence of a variety of human sexual/gender identity. If by “scientific observation” you mean the specific sort of observation practised in the modern era, then of course that wasn’t available in the first century AD. But the Greek philosophers did practise systematic observation of nature and Aristotle’s work, for example, would have been readily available to a citizen of the Roman Empire. It’s odd, though, to be appealing to Enlightenment science on the one hand as a source of authority while on the other hand… Read more »
Thank you, U.R., for your intellectually-informed intervention here. My simple mind observes only what it can encompass. At 93, I may be missing some of the finer points. However, my salient point remains: “What did the ancients know about the oddities of the Creation Story, that they might have written about differently, today?” Blessings! Keep up the good work!
Knowing how hard it was to find cover when I was in post I’ve been happy to help out in retirement. However since the recent introduction of what I consider to be a sort of contract arrangement for PTO’s in our diocese I’m going to let it go. I did my bit as a stipendiary for the best part of four decades but never wanted to be dragged back into the diocesan mincer, expected to attend all sorts of courses or reviews, fill in forms or receive endless emails about the latest strategic rhubarb. Au reservoir and all that…
If your diocese’s policy is general, I suspect a lot of retired clergy will be giving up PTO. Enjoy your real retirement and freedom from the C of E!
I quite understand the desire to be free of diocesan communications and commitments. However, the drawing up of an agreement as to what role and responsibility a priest with PTO might undertake is now required by the House of Bishops’ guidance. It strikes me that that can be very helpful in avoiding potential misunderstandings between that priest and an incumbent in whose parish that priest assists, and should help avoid priests with PTO being overwhelmed by the expectations of others. After all, it’s easier to say ‘no’ to ever-more requests for assistance if something is written down to say what… Read more »
As Rural Dean, I’ve generally taken PTO-seekers out for lunch and discussed with them what it is (a) that they’re prepared to do and (b) more importantly what they’d like to do now they’re free of the endless form-filling. It seems to have worked pretty well as the foundation for a subsequent working agreement, and if anything seems to have increased goodwill rather than undermined it. Nor have I had any sort of problem as a safeguarding lead recruiter in getting folk to dig out the necessary paperwork (and that included a non-driving non-passport holder). I wonder whether some dioceses… Read more »
It sound like you have a very civilised approach to these matters. Sadly, I am quite sure that dioceses gold-plate various regulations to show that they are Taking It Seriously.
I’ve had PTO for about 6 months now, mainly for deliverance ministry, ministry in the cathedral and occasional offices. But the reduction of the safeguarding round from 5 years to 3 years and the introduction of the new leadership safeguarding training has caused some longer retired clergy in this deanery (and probably diocese) not to renew their PTO. They simply don’t want to do the ‘mini-essay’s – ‘like being back at theological college’ is often the comment. Others I know have renewed this time because they have commitments they don’t want to give up but that was after serious consideration.… Read more »
Mary, thank you for your summary. On retirement I held PTO for 8 years as it happened. My health was compromised earlier this year as it had been 10 years ago when I retired early from stipendiuary ministry. But for some time prior to this I had been wondering whether I really wanted to ‘jump through all the hoops’ every three years. The requirement to write an essay and enter into a contract with my incumbent (did this in fact limit my PTO to one church only? – nobody explained) seemed an extension of bureaucracy and felt like being a… Read more »
Thank you, Graham. I wish you well in your full-time retirement, and share some of your feelings about retired ministry in the C of E. I haven’t committed myself to any more involvement yet, partly because I am enjoying being retired! But I’m also waiting for a role to open up that feels right and energises me – waiting on God again…! I know that in this Diocese people with PTO have a job description and agreement if they commit to a specific role. I’m wending my way through all that for deliverance ministry (which I’ve been doing for several… Read more »
Dioceses have also squeezed the fee structure for retired clergy covering Sunday services and the occasional offices. Some don’t even pay the minimum wage when one adds up time in preparation, travelling time and the time spent officiating at the service. Whatever meagre fee that is paid is then of course subject to Income Tax which for most clergy will be 20%. The labourer ought to be worthy of his or her hire.
Our diocese reminds clergy with PTO that “if you are eligible for a fee and choose not to claim it then any savings made will be used with gratitude to further the mission of the diocese.”
Or for strategic rhubarb as Just Sayin so eloquently put it!
What is the fee structure for supply clergy in the Church of England?
In my diocese in the USA, the fee for supplying for a Sunday morning (including sermon and celebration of the Eucharist) is $250.
According to my currency converter, this is about £215. How does this compare?
What a world of difference there is between us! Here in the Diocese of Coventry a priest providing cover for a Sunday Eucharist may claim £45. If they cover a second service they may claim an additional £45. If they cover a third service they may not claim any more. But it gets better. The fees policy states that “the agreed working practice within the diocese is for self-supporting ministers, retired clergy and licensed readers to give a certain amount of their time voluntarily to support the mission of the Church…” What that means in practice is that a retired… Read more »
A friend of mine in East Anglia gets something like £20 for a Sunday service. Not worth throwing back the duvet for! Given that most churches won’t be able to afford any heating this winter, you’d be warmer under the duvet as well!
I don’t know the CofE figure but the equivalent in the Church of Scotland is £60 for the first service on a Sunday plus £15 for each subsequent one. Being the Kirk that means sermon and prayers, plus communion if it’s being celebrated that Sunday.
“Some retired clergy are disillusioned with the CofE and may never return to saying Mass.”
well said Fr Dean. We have a retired priest living near us who told me he has had enough of the C of E and prefers to pray quietly at home. He hasn’t been to church, he said, for over three years…
Welcome to my world!
I’m utterly fed up with the institution and the unprepossessing bishops but I find that the people in the pews on the whole to be lovely people. I have fond memories of my former parishes but don’t miss the silly (and futile) gimmicks from the diocese one jot. As a full time carer I don’t have or want a PtO as there’s very little I can realistically offer to do. I had no idea that you had to write essays every three years in order to get one, a lot of clergy will decide to call it a day faced… Read more »
Dean, think of the fun to be had! Mine’s up next year. If I wish to renew and find myself having to write essays (this might not be required in every diocese) I shall much enjoy being utterly provocative and heterodox (not difficult) quoting prophets and fathers of the church. There’s plenty on my blog so it wouldn’t be much work. As to who marks them, let them all be sent to Lambeth. Another tranche of administrators and advisors, at least one in episcopal orders, could be appointed for the purpose. They need us more than we need them. As… Read more »