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Source: (consider it) Thread: Liturgy in the gap
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

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In the gap between vicars that is (or ministers, parish priests, incumbents, etc etc)

We are in what the Church of England doesn't call an "interregnum" any more, but a "vacancy". In my experience CofE churches usually don't react very well to these. Their ethos is usually heavily based on having The Vicar round who everything revolves, so things grind to a halt when there isn't one. (Even when everyone ignores what the vicar says, or plots against them all the time, they still need a vicar to ignore or undermine - the spokes of a wheel turn round the hub or axle, but the hub still has to be there to hold them together)

Anyway, when there is no vicar, one of three things seems to happen to the liturgy in a CofE parish:

1) Everything stays exactly the same and is done just as it was the week before they left. This is what we do and this is what we have always done. No deviation to the right or the left. (I think this is the most common result)

2) Probably second most common, a kind of reversion to the simplest possible by-the-book liturgy (from whatever book they use)

3) Sometimes, more rarely, the curates realise the cat's away - or the Churchwardens or Readers or small gang of enthusiasts realise it - and they start innovating. Doing things the way they always wanted to. Or maybe making it up as they go along. Experimenting.

Today it became clear that we are in for Option 3.

If I described this morning's liturgy here it would sound like a horror story to some of our spikier shipmates so I might hold off doing that while I go and tidy the garden. Because actually I don't really mind and it was kind of funny in a rather bumbling way. I think I see what they are trying to do and maybe they will get it right later. Or maybe they'd try something else next time and get that half right as well.


But anyway, my question - which is a genuine one: does it work that way in other sorts of churches? Would Catholic or Reformed or Baptist churches have the same three options? Ar we Anglicans particularly bad at this?

Does it ever work out well?

(And then maybe the horror stories)

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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leo
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As an Anglican, I am not one of the people you are asking but I'll comment anyway.

The traditional advice is not to any big changes until the new vicar is appointed - so that s/he can make changes should s/he wish.

However, my experience of our last vacancy is that we had a lot of visiting clergy to preside for us and they all did things different.

I robed and sat with them and went through 'the way we normally do it but it's up to you' beforehand.

Most wore chasubles (our tradition) but we have had surplice and stole and even scarf and hood and one man stood at the north end.

But we were grateful to have a eucharist and didn't worry much about variations in style.

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Zacchaeus
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But they are the sort of accidental changes that come with different people doing the roles.

What happens if people actually decide to take the opportunity of a vacany to push their own agenda?

I have known it happen in a few places and it has not gone well for the church. Most of the congregation got upset about changes that they saw as 'unauthorised' in some way.

In one church in our deanery it decended into outright warware and the archdeacon had to step in and it then effected the next appointment. The reps went for what they saw as a 'strong' leader to control the factions, it was not an appointment that was to be attractive to mission and outsiders.

Another church it became a power struggle between the key people in the church and the parish stagnated and lost more congregation than is usual in an interrugnum.

In another the wardens who had a churchmanship vastly different ot the main congregation (they were evangelical in a quite catholic parish, with a strong musical tradition) siezed the chance to change the churchmanship. Leading to a lot of the (fairly large) congregation leaving because chruch was no longer their familiar spiritula home.

edited for spelling

[ 26. May 2013, 16:24: Message edited by: Zacchaeus ]

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Jengie jon

Semper Reformanda
# 273

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Vacancy

Well strictly my congregation is not in vacancy, we are in the nameless state between having a minister and being declared part of a vacancy.

For Anglican and Methodist please not that times between pastorates in the Reformed churches are much longer. I am tending to think that within the URC the non pastoral situation is the norm.

Ignoring the first twelve months when people often strive to keep things going, I see three things happening:
  1. The services head back towards what they were like before the previous minister was in charge. Congregations work on a much longer time scales than incumbents do and if they do not like a reform they just quietly wait until the incumbent leaves and then revert.
  2. A tendency towards the denominational norm, not the set liturgy but what other congregations do. This is due to having visiting preachers who interpret the order of worship in line with their home congregations.
  3. Less participatory, that is as a rule worship is led solely by the person invited to lead it with the congregation singing the hymns and maybe people reading the lessons. The exceptions being services led by a team from the congregation but these are relatively rare.

The big battles come when the first two conflict. As for someone taking over the agenda, with different people leading it each week there is not much space for that.

Jengie

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Spike

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We've recently come to the end of a vacancy. We told by the bishop that we were NOT to change anything in the liturgy until a new priest had been appointed. This included introducing new stuff or reverting to how the vicar before last did it. The reasoning behind this was that a new priest would almost certainly make changes when appointed that may well have differed from what had been changed during the vacancy.

[edited typo. Bloody iPad with predictive text. Grumble grumble]

[ 26. May 2013, 19:35: Message edited by: Spike ]

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venbede
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quote:
Originally posted by ken:

If I described this morning's liturgy here it would sound like a horror story to some of our spikier shipmates so I might hold off doing that while I go and tidy the garden.

That's very considerate of you, ken. I hope everything in the garden's lovely chez toi even if your usual place of divine worship sounds less than divine.

(Although if it was not the eucharist or an office, I couldn't personally give a toss what they did, and if it was a eucharist presided over by an episcopally ordained priest, it was still the sacrifice of the mass whatever they thought was going on.)

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Chorister

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During our interregnum the Liturgy stayed the same as it had been. The new guy made a few slight changes, on things he had strong feelings about, when he arrived.

I was interested to see that Llandaff Cathedral (CinW) changed its Liturgy just after the former Dean left. But whether that was due to the interregnum or whether it had been planned for a long time before the Cathedral knew the Dean was leaving, I'm not sure.

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3rdFooter
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I am currently covering an interregnum and the 'change nothing' actually creates problems that after too many months are starting to grate.

1. Some of our liturgy was in need of renewal and we working on this when the incumbent left in the middle of the project. The wardens are reasonably cautious of completing this because they feel the will be criticised by the wider clergy (patron, archdeacon) if they support any change. Result: trapped with a service that no longer fits the requirement.

2. The festivals that come once a year. You are left with how people think they were held last year. An incumbent isn't in any way bound by preceding years. The previous incumbent was given to doing bits on the spur of the moment. I have to deal with peoples memory of 'how we've always done it' part of which was what came to Fr. X's mind at a particular time.

The rule is intended to protect congregations from people implementing all the change that the previous incumbent wouldn't permit and inappropriate experimentation. I guess the assumption is that status quo should not drive the existing congregation away. In practice it also stifles a congregation from necessary change, even when there are staff still in place who are competent to effect it.

Dramatic change should not be permitted. Order 1 vs Order 2, smoke and angelus vs alternate communion and morning Prayer for example would be unreasonable.

Those of us left minding the ship should be allowed to do our job.

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PD
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About a decade ago I worked a rather long vacancy at a parish that had decided that 'pickle in aspic' was the way to go. This meant that inspite of the fact the 9am service was down to 4 people, they had to have 8am HC, 9am HC/MP and 11am MP/HC! Eventually even the vestry woke up to the fact that this was no longer working and allowed me to change it to 8am and 10.30am, but even that change resulted in a certain amount of blood having to be removed from the carpet.

The vacancy I was involved in before that was a case of 'revert' before the new fellow turns up, and we went back to alternating BCP MP with Series 2 HC. This made the regulars very happy, but did not go over too well with the Rural Dean.

I tend to find that in my present jurisdiction parishes drift back to the 1928 PECUSA BCP as soon as a Missal using incumbant is out of the door. When that happens I usually get a note say "please send Broad (Central) Churchman."

PD

[ 27. May 2013, 01:57: Message edited by: PD ]

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Trisagion
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Until very recently vacancies were all but unknown in the Catholic Church in Britain. They are still vanishingly rare. The norm is for the outgoing parish priest to leave no more than a couple of weeks before his successor takes up his appointment. This leaves little or no room for the shenanigans you describe to develop.

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Anglican_Brat
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In the Canadian Anglican Church, the term is "interim ministry" and the priest is usually entitled "interim priest-in-charge."

The traditional view is that yes, the interim priest in charge should not change anything from the previous rector, with the understanding that he or she is not the incumbent, and thus does not have the same authority to implement liturgical changes.

However as with everything, I think that if the interim priest-in-charge works in corroboration with the lay leadership and consults with them about liturgical changes, i think that changes during interim ministry can work. In some cases, I have heard of congregations plead with the interim priest-in-charge that the last incumbent was not strong in liturgy, and thus would be open to changes.

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Zacchaeus
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in The CofE we don't have interim ministers and vacancies can drag on. This gives plenty of time for persoanalities, personal agendas and power plays.
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ThunderBunk

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We are going through a particularly toxic version - we're only six weeks in and the ship is already pitching and rocking violently. Strangely, the liturgy is almost unaffected, and seems to continue by a kind of collective reflex.

We have also invented the interim PiC by default, in that one of our retired clergy is co-ordinating pastoral care during the vacancy, and seems to be a fairly constant presence in liturgical terms.

[ 27. May 2013, 08:29: Message edited by: FooloftheShip ]

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venbede
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quote:
Originally posted by Trisagion:
Until very recently vacancies were all but unknown in the Catholic Church in Britain. They are still vanishingly rare. The norm is for the outgoing parish priest to leave no more than a couple of weeks before his successor takes up his appointment. This leaves little or no room for the shenanigans you describe to develop.

Is that because the personality of the parish priest is less significant if the main thing for the laity is to get to mass anywhere? (I'm not sneering - it makes the grass sound greener on the other bank of the Tiber.)

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Zappa
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I did a locum in Adelaide many years ago. It was a fascinating experience. I had been out of the stipendiary priesthood for two years, and was myself in transition as much as the parish, maybe that's an ingredient in the story? The parish was extremely well-heeled, and for ten years it had been in the hands of a seven day creationist who was a sort of fundamentalist who tolerated liturgy (but thought "the Lord's Table" was a bit of a bore), and therefore wrote his own hymns containing every conceivable piece of Calvinist theology in every verse (therefore the metre and rhyme was something like 16.16.16.32.34.26.18.36.74.28.34.96 ABBABBCDDBBA) ...

I said to the wardens that I really couldn't quite imitate my predecessor's creative brilliance and would they mind if I did things pretty much trad Anglican with perhaps a little less fundamentalist belief? They acquiesced. Sort of readily.

So I arrived, and the weird thing was there was not a single expression of disappointment at the changes. In the next three months I broke every rule in the interim ministry handbook. The nominators unfortunately made a rather hasty appointment, who was removed from office almost more hastily after a serious misdemeanor or two, but the priest since then (about 16 years), a fantastic specimen of Anglican integrity, has built a vibrant, broad-minded, inclusive, pretty much constantly growing faith community that has never looked back to those dark days in which the sermons were 55 minutes long, the hymns about 15 minutes each, and the Commemoration of the Lord's Supper with Doctrine of the Real Absence™ so low that it was geothermal.

I like to kid myself that I had some ameliorative role in the history of that place. They keep in touch.

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Adeodatus
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So, am I wrong in thinking that ken's Option 3 is actually illegal under canon law? Or is it one of those (many) things in the CofE that's illegal but commonly done anyway?

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Emendator Liturgia
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Here in the Sydney corner of the Anglican Communion we don't have locums any more - rather, we have Acting Rectors - with the full rights, duties, expectations etc. of an appointed priest. For better or for worse ...

I do advise anyone in the situation of being responsible for the appointment of either a locum or an AP - DON'T, whatever you do, DO NOT allow the appointment of an elderly, retired priest who has been the rector of the parish previously. They remember how it was done in their day and cannot understand how the parish might have changed since, how personalities have changed, etc. Been there, struggled through it - and people invariably comment that when he was first there he seemed to be such a nice, up-to-date person - how did he get so stuck in the past (this comment was from a parishioner who was actually 10 years older than the locum!

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Trisagion
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quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
Is that because the personality of the parish priest is less significant if the main thing for the laity is to get to mass anywhere? (I'm not sneering - it makes the grass sound greener on the other bank of the Tiber.)

The lack of interregna is a result of the way our appointments operate. The lack of messing around is, I think, a function of rarity, the short gaps and the greater homogeneity of parish liturgy.

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Angloid
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I did a longish stint of locum cover recently (shared with a couple of other priests) where the departing parish priest left behind a mishmash of a liturgy which combined bits -including eucharistic prayer - of the Roman rite with bits of Common Worship. I was sorely tempted to tidy it up and use CW totally, but refrained despite the fact that the congregation were much more MOTR than the priest had been. The evangelical Archdeacon didn't seem worried and indeed I assume that he used that rite when he officiated.

Whatever the protocol about respecting existing traditions I would have thought that C of E canon law about authorised liturgy would trump that. But it wasn't worth making a song and dance over.

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Chorister

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It does seem to be the case that an Interregnum is now much longer than would originally have been the case. Our Archdeacon told us it could be up to a year, but during that year the parish was told to hold a series of meetings to which everyone was invited so we could thrash out various issues and come up with a parish plan. Although the Liturgy was not actually changed, it was certainly talked about and written about, as part of that plan.

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Olaf
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quote:
Originally posted by Trisagion:
The lack of interregna is a result of the way our appointments operate. The lack of messing around is, I think, a function of rarity, the short gaps and the greater homogeneity of parish liturgy.

It is this practice and the consistency of liturgy (give or take) that may effect my plunge into the Tiber in a fit of frustration one day.

[ 27. May 2013, 23:29: Message edited by: Olaf ]

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Trisagion:
quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
Is that because the personality of the parish priest is less significant if the main thing for the laity is to get to mass anywhere? (I'm not sneering - it makes the grass sound greener on the other bank of the Tiber.)

The lack of interregna is a result of the way our appointments operate. The lack of messing around is, I think, a function of rarity, the short gaps and the greater homogeneity of parish liturgy.
Presumably the expectation of obedience of clergy, and the lack of family ties, makes shifting them around as required much quicker and easier?
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PD
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# 12436

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That's pretty much the case, but there has been a slight shift in the way RC priests are deployed around here.

Firstly, the bishop is a bit more reasonable in the way in which he moves folks around. He basically is not going to yank a guy out of a parish at a moment's notice and pack him off 150 miles away.

Secondly, the bishop seems to play musical priests at the same time each year. There also seems to be a policy around here (I'll have to ask the RC VG when I see him) of assigning priests to a parish for 5, 7 or 10 years so that no-one gets a life sentence to Our Lady of Poverty, Shithole, anymore. It also makes what American Anglicans call 'the Cardinal Rector' a thing of the past, which helps the bishop and the younger clergy.

Both of these factors tend to make life a little more tolerable for the RC clergy around here.

PD

[ 28. May 2013, 18:03: Message edited by: PD ]

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Trisagion
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PD, the USCCB has taken advantage of the provision in canon 522 to appoint pastors for a fixed period of time. I believe the norm is a six year appointment, which may be extended for further terms of six years. Here in the UK, none of the three Bishops' Conferences has done that.

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Augustine the Aleut
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The only notable interregnum in which I was involved featured two retired priests, who quietly maintained existing practice. Indeed, at S Vartan's, the two-year (a local exception, compounded by a transition between two appointment systems, and resolved by a most unwise peremptory appointment by the Bishop) interregnum might well have been the parish' best years out of the past twenty. They took care of the magic bits and let the laity run the place.
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PD
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# 12436

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quote:
Originally posted by Trisagion:
PD, the USCCB has taken advantage of the provision in canon 522 to appoint pastors for a fixed period of time. I believe the norm is a six year appointment, which may be extended for further terms of six years. Here in the UK, none of the three Bishops' Conferences has done that.

That was tremendously sensible of the USCCB, IMHO. It is easy to get stale if you are in the same parish for too long, so the fixed term gives an opportunity to move someone along when it is time.

My difficulty, when I am wearing my bishop hat, is that we have priests who have been in certain parishes for-ev-er. Most of them still do OK, but there is an element that have come to the point where "it'll see me out" is the main policy drive. That can be very hard on a parish. Interregnums seem to be safety valve situations with us. It allows the parish to take stock and get rid of the last priest's set of eccentricities, usually by enduring those of the locum tenens, before they get the new fella.

PD

[ 29. May 2013, 05:38: Message edited by: PD ]

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Sober Preacher's Kid

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In the UCCan vacancies last anywhere from six months to a year, it depends on how quick the Search Committee is which in turn reflects on how difficult the congregation is, what is wanted, and how rural the place is.

If you are really hard up you can apply for Settlement, in which Conference appoints your minister, you have to take who they give you. That's how rural charges in smaller provinces have got their ministers for decades.

If the vacancy is to be more than a year or there are difficult issues to work through, a congregation can appoint an Interim Minister, who will be there for two years and has extra training to resolve difficulties and transition a congregation to a new minister.

Liturgically, without a minister the service will be a basic Hymn Sandwich with the usual hymns or a praise band. The worse worship experience I ever had was when one of these praise bands gave us a "witness" that she said she told her mother she should die right now, just drop dead, as she had lived 80 years and was so holy and obviously saved she should be with Jesus and not delay reuniting with her Maker and Saviour.

I was reaching for Calvin's Institutes after that one. [Projectile]

But when left to their own devices and without benefit of a praise band, congregations muddle along with a basic hymn sandwich.

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Zappa
Ship's Wake
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quote:
Originally posted by Sober Preacher's Kid:
I was reaching for Calvin's Institutes after that one. [Projectile]


Um ... I digress from the thread, but I'm not sure you should have been engaging in the dispatch of an elderly lady by means of a two volume tome ... though I fully understand your desire to assist the wild prophet

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L'organist
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The situation with vacancies/interregnums in the CofE is scandalous: there can be no excuse for waiting to advertise until an incumbent has left.

In some of the dioceses, including where I am, they compound the potential for disaster by having a policy NOT to have a locally retired cleric take responsibility for oversight during an interregnum. This is particularly obtuse since it means that wedding couples, people seeking baptism, etc, get little or no preparation and have no idea of who to speak to, and undertakers also find it a nightmare. [Eek!]

In the case of one retiring cleric, who polarised his parish to the extent that his organist appealed to the archdeacon, the score-settling and back-biting that ensued when he left has resulted in such bitterness that the only people now left in the regular congregation are the last PP's fan club. While neighbouring parishes may be happy to benefit from an influx of demoralised and ostracised 'refugees' this really is no way for a supposedly pastoral organisation to carry one.

One way to minimise the disruption of a vacancy is for PP, wardens, director of music, perhaps 1 other to have regular de-briefings after festivals and 'specials' so that (a) problems can be ironed out and (b) everyone knows what actually went on and what should happen the next time. In our parish we keep a file which lists all the specials and how they are run; this is regularly updated and can be accessed quickly by a locum or replacement priest.

We have separate service booklets for each season so there is no confusion if a last-minute substitution of celebrant has to be made, and the music archive is kept up-to-date so that can also be consulted.

I'm old enough to remember when vacancies were advertised and filled before an incumbent's last Sunday. Not only did this mean that the opportunity for empire-building by more forceful laity was kept to a minimum, it also meant that houses didn't fall into disrepair and, if the house was large or had odd-shaped rooms, there was the opportunity for the outgoing chap to sell on bespoke stuff to the incomer. In short, it worked out well.

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Angloid
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The reason for long vacancies seems to be to save the diocese money. However, in this diocese at least they seem to be getting shorter, though still over six months. It allows us retired clergy to have something to do, and also gives the parish a breathing space. And if we make a mess of things meanwhile they will welcome their next incumbent with open arms.

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Albertus
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Just out of interest, I wonder- I genuinely don't know- how long jobs in diocesan offices, Boards of Finance, and so on, are generally vacant for.
ISTM that the parochial ministry is absolutely the last thing that the Church should be skimping on.

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Avila
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UK Methodist tradition through 'stationing' used to mean no vacancy except perhaps for a month or so in summer during the physical moves.

All those moving that year start on 1st Sept. We have a fixed term of appointment (5 yrs initially is the norm) and that can be extended by a 'reinvitation' from the circuit which is part of an all round reflection from minister and churches. Far from perfect and painful when expectations clash, but it does give natural points of review of ministry between which no sudden surprises or departures are expected. (though sometimes stuff happens)

One discipline of the system is that as ministers we decide to stay or go before knowing what other options will be available to move to.

When it is known who is moving and where will be vacant the profile lists go out and people express opinions and then wait to see what comes back from the stationing committee.

However we have had a period when there have been more vacancies than ministers so the year without has become a more common feature. Now the lists are more equal but only because finances have made circuits reduce the number of appointments.

However in any gap the churches are still served by the wider circuit staff and ongoing lay preacher services.

(edited for Grand Ma)

[ 31. May 2013, 10:31: Message edited by: Avila ]

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ExclamationMark
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In Baptist circles (BUGB that is), it's not unusual to have a gap of a year or more. There was a gap of almost 2 years in my present post and one of 4 years before I arrived in my previous church. The record, I think - unless anyone knows otherwise is soemthing like a 5 year continuous process of looking for a minister.

That said, the process of "bridging the gap" tends to be covered through 3 distinct but interwoven threads in the life of the church

- appointing a moderator to take an overview and guide the church forward. Not always an ordained minister but somoone with maturity and a knowledge of the church. In both cases for me, the vacancy has been overseen by laypeople, both of whom are first class.
- encouraging the congregation to use their gifts in church life to bridge the gap
- review and reflect on the life of the church and put together a profile for a new minister who will lead the church in the way and in the direction the congregation as a whole discerns as right before God.

There is always the potential for the loudest shouters or power brokers to have too big an influence. However, that's tempered by the critical foundation of every member ministry and the gathering together (church meeting) to seek God's will and direction.

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Baptist Trainfan
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I think, though, there are two distinct types of (Baptist) Moderators (especially if they are ministers).

Some will virtually act as Interim Ministers and conduct most of the services - in fact I have known this to happen and the church to ultimately offer them a "call".

More often they are involved in their own church and their input is limited to chairing Deacons'/Church Meetings, aiding the church through the discerning process, and taking the occasional service themselves. I have been in this situation and found it quite rewarding.

A lot depends on the resources of the individual church: some have plenty of worship leaders and preachers available (or a good supply of "known friends" who can help them out), others depend more on outside lay preachers. IME those are the most likely to stick to a traditional "hymn sandwich". Remember that the format of a Nonconformist service is even more dependent on the approach taken by its leader than in the CofE (no Prayer Book to fall back on).

It's worth pointing out that, in many Baptist churches, the lay leaders (especially musicians) play a large part in organising worship anyway, and this input will be maintained during a vacancy. I suspect that this is less true of URC congregations which perhaps make more of the role of "Minister of Word and Sacrament".

This comes out in Communion where, in Baptist churches, it would be perfectly in order for a local lay leader to preside (even in preference to a relatively unknown "outside" minister); in URC churches you would probably trundle in an ordained minister unless you could prove to your Synod that there were real difficulties in getting hold of one.

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PD
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quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
Just out of interest, I wonder- I genuinely don't know- how long jobs in diocesan offices, Boards of Finance, and so on, are generally vacant for.
ISTM that the parochial ministry is absolutely the last thing that the Church should be skimping on.

My impression is that it depends on who they are trying to replace. Fairly senior positions tend to take a while because they are usually waiting for the right person - cynically said to be the Bishop's drinking buddy from college; old friend in the City; etc - to become available. I assume that, from the speed of appointment, the pool of suitable insiders is greater for the less senior positions.

The one UK diocese with which I have a certain amount of familiarity tends to fill important parishes fairly quickly. I tend to attribute this to a combination of strategic thinking, and a desire to make sure there is someone there to control the Local Ministry Team. Deeply Rural livings can take a lot longer, especially if they are right pains to minster to and administer in the first place. Twenty years ago the F*****gham group was rather notorious for having 10 churches serving about 2000 people, and some of the communities served were vanishingly small, but had good church attendance in percentage terms. The parson who went there had to be a very special kind of loonie! For a start it had to be someone who did not have an idee fixe about Communion as the main service, as there was an awful lot of lay reader ministry needed to keep that group ticking over! He also needed to cope with ten different sets of paperwork!

The other sort of parish that was hard to fill was St. Cesspit in the Slums and its ilk, but you could usually find someone who was still keen to go there as it was perceived as a 'challenge.'

PD

[ 31. May 2013, 15:34: Message edited by: PD ]

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LeRoc

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LOL, my church is always in the gap.

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AndyB
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I've been getting a fair bit of experience. My (Presbyterian) church had a vacancy of about nine months, which seems quite short, but might have been less but for the summer, negotiations over whether they would be permitted to call a minister, and partnership with part of the central church.

CoI vacancies appear to be in the region of six-nine months, nearer nine. Part of the reason is inevitably refurbishment of the Rectory, especially after a long incumbency.

In terms of liturgy, in my current church I looked after the hymn side of the sandwich, helped considerably by the most regular visiting preacher being kind enough to give me a preaching plan. They all stuck firmly to the regular order of service.

It's been a long time since I've been concerned with a vacancy in an Anglican church. My opinion is that a little carefully managed innovation is not necessarily a bad idea, but firstly using established liturgy, including BCP, CW, BCP 2004, frequently used orders for the Service of the Word, is almost never a bad idea, and secondly, incumbents are no guarantee against curates introducing bad liturgy as Ken so kindly excused us from hearing about in the OP - given the very serious danger of said incumbent introducing worse!

[ 04. June 2013, 21:23: Message edited by: AndyB ]

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LutheranChik
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Our pastor is retiring in August, so I guess I'll have some fresh anecdotal material to contribute then...our liturgy is already minimalist and spoken, so I can't imagine the service becoming any more spartan than it is. And our people are not innovators; they don't appreciate liturgical surprises of any kind, up or down the candle.

Music-wise, I anticipate more 19th-century-Methodist-camp-meeting, favored of the remaining Old Guard.

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Anselmina
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It might be more useful in the long run, and better for the new incoming minister, and the congregation to go for the experimentation, or at least variations. If things are kept slavishly identical to what went before, it can take even a new incumbent a long, long time and lots of persuasion and courage to effect even small changes when s/he arrives in parish.

If there's an unbroken straight line between the last guy and the new guy some - and the vacancy changes nothing - congregations are notoriously unhappy about any changes at all; even the ones which are natural with a new person at the helm.

If a little of the pain of breaking with the old regime has already been gone through, the new person will be free to find their own way into the job.

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Vade Mecum
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quote:
Originally posted by Anselmina:
It might be more useful in the long run, and better for the new incoming minister, and the congregation to go for the experimentation, or at least variations. If things are kept slavishly identical to what went before, it can take even a new incumbent a long, long time and lots of persuasion and courage to effect even small changes when s/he arrives in parish.

I have heard it said that one should only ever set about reordering in one of two ways: either change everything which irks you the moment the removers have removed themselves, or spend the next twenty years convincing the PCC to put each change on the agenda one at a time.

It might be said that the former is distressing to the change-averse, but I wonder if there isn't mileage in the notion that most congregations (or at least the majority thereof) aren't attached to specifics for any specific reason, but merely by virtue of their long use - and that, a new PP/vicar/P-in-C being a major change already, it is better to 'rip the plaster off' rather than fighting an inertia already recovering from the change of personnel, knowing that change can be painful merely qua change, rather than seeing all opposition to change as deeply rooted in doctrine and liable to foment schism if interfered with.

Thus, at my church, for instance, the nave altar (the last remaining of a series of versus pop. altars to be removed from the various chapels) is retained for fear of seeming to move higher up the candle, and thus alienating the people. Which all sounds well, but relies on the congregation actually investing such details with as much significance as the liturgical obsessives (like me) which I find unlikely. Nevertheless, changing it now, so far into the current priest's incumbency, would arouse if to suspicion then at least curiosity (possibly a good thing), whereas had it been removed with all the others, I doubt many would have batted any extra eyelids any harder than they did at the time.

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*Leon*
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quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:
The situation with vacancies/interregnums in the CofE is scandalous: there can be no excuse for waiting to advertise until an incumbent has left.

The excuse that is given is that the parish should have an opportunity to think about who they are and what sort of vicar they want. And they should do this free from any possibility of interference from the current vicar.

I do know of situations where this has proved very useful to parishes. But I can't help thinking there must be a better way of doing things.

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Albertus
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Yes, 'excuse' is the word.
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Basilica
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quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
Yes, 'excuse' is the word.

The reality being that ten months without a priest is ten months without a priest's stipend to pay?
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Albertus
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Yup. And for some reason the church hierarchy seems to think that the parochial ministry- which is the whole raison d'etre of the CofE- is a suitable place to save money.
This might not be so bad if they were honest about it. It's when they dress it up with all this crap about it really being so that the parish can take its time to decide what kind of a new vicar it wants* that the hypocrisy of it stinks. I love the CofE but the ability to make up spurious theological and pastoral reasons as cover for business decisions is one of its worst traits.

*I'd just leave it to the patron if I had my way - that seemed to work more or less OK, once the big abuses of non-residence, pluralism, and so on had been to some extent addressed in the C19. But hey, what do I know?

[ 19. June 2013, 17:12: Message edited by: Albertus ]

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AndyB
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The problem is that the incumbent can withdraw their resignation at any time until they actually leave. Even an impending consecration is no guarantee against the person concerned actually going.

In saying that, I'd be all for those expected to be concerned in the appointment of the new minister going and checking out prospective people "early", even in the current dispensation where many churches ask for formal applications.

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by AndyB:
The problem is that the incumbent can withdraw their resignation at any time until they actually leave. Even an impending consecration is no guarantee against the person concerned actually going. ...

Are you sure that's correct? It sounds rather surprising. It doesn't apply in other contexts.

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PD
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I believe it varies from diocese to diocese. However, many think it is not fair to advertise until they actually get the rectory keys back. I make a point of starting to kick the trash cans to see who comes out once I know a parish is going to be coming vacant.

In this diocese, once you submit your resignation you are essentially working your notice. I have one parish that is difficult to fill, but the others all seem easy enough provided someone acceptabe to both the parish and the bishop is available. As a lot of out churches are dependent on NSMs it helps that we have parish clergy who do make a point of looking for their successors. Such parishes are easier to fill than those that wait for a new incumbant to drop from the skies.

PD

[ 20. June 2013, 03:47: Message edited by: PD ]

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AndyB
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Unfortunately so, Enoch. A recent episcopal election hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, dragging everyone through the muck less than two weeks before the proposed consecration. To be fair, the person's name should never have gone forward in the first place, but the publicity appears to have emanated from quarters with axes to grind and who presumably noticed that the first newspaper to mention it was largely ignored and thus tipped off a more popular newspaper, with the desired effect.

PD, if one of your priests were to submit their resignation, have it accepted, but decide to withdraw it before their "leaving" service, would you force them to leave?

For all that, I'm still very much in favour of unofficially looking around before the incumbent is out the door...

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PD
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Technically, when an incumbant resigns they should send their letter of resignation to the vestry, and copy it to the bishop. If they choose to withdraw their resignation that is between them and the vestry. If the last two vacancies in this diocese are anything to go by, the vestry's attitude has been 'don't let the screen door hit you on the ass when you go' so the vestry would force the issue by "starving out" the unwaned clergyman, even if I did get involved. Vestries are generally less 'nice' about things when they want rid of some one than bishops!

In the appointments process, I am technically an interested by-stander until the living is declared vacant by the Senior Warden! However, my tendancy is to kick the rubbish bins as soon as I get wind of a vacancy simply because most vestries have no idea what they want, and I want to be able to steer them a little.

On past experience I find that they either reject everything offered until they think they have been vacant long enough, or grab on to first, third, fourth or nineteenth priest that comes along no matter how unsuitable they might be for that parish. I have been lumbered with a couple of 'prime examples' that way. However, they have both now departed to more promising territory [Big Grin]

Most parishes in my diocese are Central or Central-to-Low in churchmanship, so I tend to encourage them to look for, and I am well placed to find, the required MOTR-Low round pegs. I will be honest and say that I tend to steer the process towards folks that will fit in with the existing clergy in the diocese, and will not upset the prevailing churchmanship. However, if a parish has a settled High Church tradition I am happy to find them a high church incumbant provided he can work with Middle to Low majority in the diocese.

PD

[ 21. June 2013, 05:44: Message edited by: PD ]

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