Thursday, 17 December 2009

Clergy Cutbacks 2

I've had a very strong and spirited defense of the clergy system in Jersey by email from the Dean, who has graciously agreed to let me post it on my blog. I had not contacted him beforehand as I was concerned about how busy he might be, and this gives a much more positive picture than the article in the Jersey Evening Post did. It certainly puts me straight on a number of issues, so I am glad of his correction, which I print here in full. I'm not always right!

From Robert Key. Dean of Jersey:

Dear Friends,
I always read Tony's contributions in the expectation that he will cast some light on things but, in this case, his writing falls somewhat short of that. I have to say that if he had done me the courtesy of asking me I could have given him the full situation. I am sure that folk don't have much time over Christmas to read long articles from the Dean so let me make just a few points and leave it at that. Of course my door is always open to anyone who wants to make constructive contributions to my thinking.
The parish system is at the heart of Jersey life and is, of course, linked to our relationship with the Crown. I am Her Majesty's Dean and appointed by her Letters Patent. The Constables insist, rightly in my view, that a separate Rector for each parish is Jersey's heritage and tradition. It is also built into the law of the land through the Canons of the Church of England in Jersey.
Secondly comparisons with Lincoln, Liverpool, Stockholm or anywhere else is rather like comparing apples and oranges. Islands are different and recognised as such. So let me compare us with the other Crown Dependency, the Isle of Man. By historical quirk they have a full-time Bishop and a half-time Archdeacon in addition to their priests. if we had clergy in the same propiortion as the Isle of Man (population for population) we would have 22 or so.
Thirdly, Ministry is not just about how many churches each Pastor pastors. That would be like comparing a Minister to, say, a golf club steward whose work is focussed on the needs and demands of members. The C of E  in Jersey is responsible for everyone whether they come or not. Any Islander can get married at their Parish Church or have their funeral taken by their Rector or Vicar. It is not about maintaining religious clubs it is is about the Mission of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Fourthly, as financial reality hits the churches (all denominations that I know of) we are realising that Ministry has to be paid for by the living not subsidised by those who have gone before us to glory. Each unit, be it ancient pairsh or Victorian District,  has to be financially viable and pay for the ministry it receives unless it is a tough mission area and is subsidised by other churches in the Island.
Fifthly, we have already been imaginative in Jersey. St Mary's has its own Rector on a house for duty basis as does St Martin de Grouville and we have actually improved the number of clergy in the Island in the last four years including a prison chaplain and a second chaplain at the hospital. We have also launched out in Fresh Expressions in schools (through St Mark's) at the Royal Yacht (through the Town Centre Missioner) and at a pub (through St Brelade's)
Sixthly. The Ministry Division of the C of E, is asking every area (including Jersey) to decide, long term,  how many clergy it can deploy and afford to pay. That is an exercise Jersey will undertake prayerfully and imaginatively.
Seventhly and lastly. The research that I have seen shows clearly that where you cut clergy, or have very long gaps between appointments, the church declines. Many denominations have been in managed decline for the last few decades. I don't know about you but I believe I am called by God to do everything I can to reverse that trend.
Let me take this opportunity of wishing all those who read this a very happy Christmas and God's richest blessing in 2010.
Yours in Christ,

The Very Reverend Robert Key
Dean of Jersey


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