Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Winds of Change and the Challenge to Share

In August 1997, a debate began in "The Pilot" magazine about whether or not there were too many clergy in Jersey and whether the numbers should be reduced. It is interesting, not least because the debate was largely settled in favour of the status quo, with minor adjustments among the district churches.
It began with a short piece by "A.H. ", on the factual situation, which has of course changed with the new Jersey Canons of the Church of England which now says in particular: "None, either Dean or Minister, shall hold two Rectorial Benefices together."

But there are some interesting arguments put forth by David Jones, and one in particular has a political analogue. He says:
"Back in the 70's it was realised that most of the Church of England's clergy were in the rural areas, when most of the population lived in urban areas."
Substitute "Deputies" for clergy, and you have the problem with voter parity in a nutshell. Of course population and church attendance are very different matters, but it is a curious parallel none the less.
Next week, I will be looking at the contributions of Tony Keogh, then Rector of Trinity, and Canon John Seaford, who was Dean of Jersey in 1997.
Of Rectors
In "A Constitutional History of Jersey" (1972) F de L Bois, a former Deputy Bailiff, explained concisely the position of the Rector vis-à-vis his Parish. Readers of The PILOT may find this information illuminating in view of the current discussions concerning the perceived need to reduce the number of clergy, initially by two.
"The Governmental body for the Parish is the Assembly of Principals and Officers of the Parish, known as the Parish Assembly."
"When dealing with the ecclesiastical affairs of the Parish, the Rector of the Parish presides, and when dealing with all the other parish affairs, the Constable presides:'
"The Assembly under the presidency of the Rector is commonly called the Ecclesiastical Assembly and the Assembly under the presidency of the Constable is called the Civil Assembly when contrasted to the Ecclesiastical Assembly, but is commonly called the Parish Assembly."
"The Officers of the Parish are
(a) The Constable, who is head of the civil parish and chief of the parish       police;
(b) The Rector, who is appointed by the Crown and is head of the ecclesiastical parish;
(c) The Centeniers, the senior of whom is known as the Chef de Police; (d) The Procureurs du Bien Publique (Public Trustees);
(e) The Churchwardens;
(f) The Vingteniers;
(g) The Constable's Officers; (h) The Almoners."
A Rector thus appears to be so inextricably linked into his Parish that to have one Rector appointed to two Parishes is as unthinkable as to combine two Parishes under one Constable. Nor does Jersey Canon Law countenance such an arrangement: "None, either Dean or Minister, shall hold two Benefices together, unless in time of Vacancy." (Canon 14)
As to precedent, the Reverend Edward Durell, in his notes on the Jersey Canons, written in 1837, states
"It does not appear ... that any individual was ever allowed to hold two benefices in Jersey." (Note 3).
From DAVID JONES Priest-in-Charge, St Luke, August 1997
The Winds of Change and the Challenge to Share
THE twentieth century crept closer to the Established Church in the Bailiwick of Jersey last month, yet the Deanery Synod again ran away from facing the need to look at the present conditions of the Church of England and what the future held and the challenge to change. Ours is the last Deanery in our Diocese to face the challenge! The "Other Island" has already done its job. Why is Jersey last? What a reputation, when we could be leading the way with imagination and flare! A lot was said about history and the need to preserve, and not in "my parish," and why not next door?
For those of you unaware of the issue, it was the need to release two clergy posts in the Island, so that places with greater need may benefit on the mainland. This is something new for us here but very common for the last twenty years in the UK. Back in the 70's it was realised that most of the Church of England's clergy were in the rural areas, when most of the population lived in urban areas. So a process of better use of the manpower of the Church was undertaken and the number of clergy, serving relatively small populations, was reduced by the uniting of parishes under one priest. Added to this there were, and are, less men (and now women) offering themselves for the Ordained Ministry and less money to pay for them. Thus there was a growing need, with less resources. Since those days country and town parishes have had to cut their cloth according to the means available.
I came to Jersey from three rural parishes of the size of St Mary's and St John's, scattered over 30 square miles. We had three church schools to run and to be chairman of the governors and trustee of. Three church councils to run. Three parish councils to attend and the raising of funds to maintain all three church buildings, and pay the Quota, and give to mission. Yes, with the visiting and the growing of congregations. That group of three is now, like many others, to increase to five parishes soon. Still with only one Rector. My situation was far from unique, as there were Rectors nearby with five, six and seven parishes.
Yes, I know that Rectors on Jersey are different and play a part in the civil parish administration, but they, unlike their UK fellows, get their church and rectories maintained by the civil authorities and don't have the burden of work, raising funds to do the repair and restoration, themselves (like, I might say, the district churches here do!).
The challenge all of the Anglican churches in Jersey have, is to take our part in the wider Church of which we belong (a wider Church that supports those parishes here who do not pay their full Quota, by subsidising them.) We have more than our fair share of clergy. We need to share our priests, and at the moment release two for service elsewhere. To somewhere with a great need (and population). We may need to release more, only time will tell. But this surely is part of being Christians together, helping where there is the greater need.
We face a challenge, country parishes and the parishes and churches around the town of St Helier; are we making the best use of our limited manpower resources? Let us make the creative choices, rather than have them imposed on us, because we have run away from the challenge. This time, is not a time of doom and gloom, though, but a time of opportunity. Sharing a priest can release the ministries of other people, as is evident in many a parish church in the UK where one man has charge of a group of two, three or four. It is a time to seek a new vision from God as to what is His task for His people in this generation.
The talking will go on, let us pray that we Anglicans in this Island may not duck the issues, but meet them with courage, imagination and the Spirit of Christian generosity. That come November we may have a plan for our future development, worthy of those who follow the God who makes all things new and is ever moving onward. Much more can and will be said, but we cannot get away from the fact that we have more then our fair share of clergy. Let us meet that truth together. And together rise to the challenge.

1 comment:

James said...

250-odd square miles.
Population of 10000+.
26 churches.

One stipendiary priest, plus whatever help from retired clergy he can get.

Welcome to the life of a Catholic parish in Perigord.