Now the vicar has left the village for pastures new, I was wondering how they go about appointing the new vicar. So I emailed the Diocese of York to find out about the process. I received a very helpful response and a Communications Intern was assigned to write a post for the blog.
The appointment of clergy is a mystery to most of us. It is a process which is steeped in historic layers of rules and treads the fine and often ambiguous line between the sacred and secular ways of ‘work’. Once upon a time, a man who loved the Lord and had an upstanding moral character would do. Now however, there are many more variables to consider and those who lead this process must balance regular workplace practices of equal opportunities with their own spirit led discernment of those called to ministry.
Though the Church of England has one universal flow of proceedings, within this structure, every diocese will have their own nuances to add as best suits the needs of their community. Moreover, as the job of ‘Vicaring’ is so much more than a regular 9-5, in that the person of the vicar is to become part of the living community of his/her parish, really every situation is unique and must be treated accordingly. So, it’s hard to say, ‘this is how we do things and this is what will happen…’ because it’s impossible to tell until you’re in the middle of it, or rather nearing the end.
So please do not take the following as a prescriptive declaration of what is to happen next, but cast your eye over this with the view only to familiarise yourself with what those involved in the process are preparing themselves for in the coming weeks and months.
When appointing a clergy member, the deciding body is to follow the legislation in the Patronage [Benefices] Measure 1986. The Diocesan Bishop oversees the process, whereas the patron, (Archbishop Sentamu), in theory, leads the process with support from the Archdeacon and Area Deans and the local Parochial Church Council (PCC) of the vacant church will do most of the ground work and are continually involved in all discussions and decisions. In practice, very few patrons get involved in the details of the process and it is the Archdeacon who does the leading of the process
Assuming that there are no issues or obstacles to deal with first, the appointment of a new parish vicar will go something like this.
If the patron choses to be involved, they can nominate a candidate, and then the PCC and Bishop will need to affirm the nomination of the candidate unanimously before the process continues; or the position can be advertised as any other job might be; which is was normally happens.
In the case of the latter the Diocesan Bishop will serve a formal notice of vacancy and the PCC will need to fill out and return some forms. Then, the PCC will meet to discuss and prepare a statement of their community’s context, its needs and traditions and come up with a job specification and personal profile for the role of a new vicar.
Throughout the process there will be lots of consultations and discussions so that everyone remains in agreement with how the process continues. The interview day involves the candidates having a tour of the parish(es) and meeting a few people that they may be working especially closely with, often over lunch. Once they have been fed, the formal interviews take place.
It is the patron who decides to whom an offer can be made, (but the Bishop has the right to both accept and reject possible candidates.) If the offer is accepted and the formalities such as Disclosure and Barring Service Checks and the like are underway a formal announcement can be made and the induction process can begin.
If the offer is rejected, or no candidate is found to be the right person, the process starts again. If this (in the case of Walkington specifically) process takes longer than 12 months, the patronage lapses to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Being a parish vicar is much more than just having a job; it is about being part of and leading a community; living with others and pointing them to Jesus through every element of yourself and your life. That is why it’s so important to match person with the community and that is why sometimes the process can be complicated and seem drawn out.
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ – Philippians 4:6
Editor’s Note: Thanks to the Diocese of York and Emily Merrett.