Getting a Right Vision of Vacancy

As you know, in July we said goodbye to the Revd Brian Atkinson, and so now I hope to keep you updated with the vacancy process and what is happening. The first thing of which to remind ourselves is that it is not a vacancy at Amberley; it is a vacancy within the team. We will be advertising the House-for-Duty post as a vacancy within the team to support the mission and ministry of The Rector and the team within the benefice, with special responsibilities at Amberley. In practice, this means the person appointed will spend much - but not all - of their time at Amberley, living in the house available at Amberley, and working for three days within the week (which includes Sunday). Whilst there will inevitably need to be flexibility on occasions as to how these hours are worked across the week, it seems important that we look at moving to fixed days of work, by and large, to make it clear for everyone in the parish who it is they need to contact. It may be that there are three set days in which the House-for-Duty will be contacted and the remaining four days the first port of call for contact will be myself as Rector. The person appointed will also preach and preside on occasions at Minch and Box, just as myself and the rest of the team will preach and preside at Amberley.

It is expected that clergy support of the various committees will be shared between myself as Rector and the House-for-Duty priest, and with regular staff meetings for ourselves we should both keep up-to-date with all the information! We will also see ourselves as a team supporting and helping the different lay ministries within church - so it may be either myself or the new person who supports each area of ministry, not necessarily the new person coming in. At this stage I want to make no promises as to who will do what - but to reassure that as far as possible, one of us will be able to support the different vibrant ministries within our churches. A particular remit for the new person will, however, be their role as a school Foundation Governor, and the work with the school and families.

This also means that it may again be either one of us who takes weddings, baptisms and funerals at Amberley, or indeed at the other two churches, and that may depend on fixed days of work and who is available. Occasionally our retired priests will be asked to help out - they do so much for us and are an invaluable support to the work! I would also hope to see the lay baptism team be released into new life.
I am so grateful to the Church Wardens in both parishes, and to the vergers Clare and Colin, and the Parish Administrator Christine, who take on a phenomenal amount of work and without whom we could not manage. This releases me and the clergy and reader team to get on with 'our job' - and I am happy to say that so far we seem able to cover all our usual services, with the help of our retired clergy, and to continue to honour all the schools work happening in Amberley School. This is due to the extensive lay ministry teams who go in, and due to the school staff continuing to support the weekly collective act of worship in church by beginning to take on some of that themselves.

I am delighted the Pastoral Care Team in both parishes is so strong. There will, of course, always be occasions for clergy to visit - and Amberley needs to hear as well as Minch and Box that if there is a particular reason for a clergy visit to someone, just let me know: one of us can be available. We are aware, however, pastoral care is the responsibility and ministry of all of us. I am delighted so much pastoral visiting takes place by laity. Thank you. In addition, just as we have licensed people at Minch and Box to take out Holy Communion in home visits to those who are sick, I hope that some members of the Pastoral Care Team at Amberley will feel able to be licensed to take on this role also. You will be fully trained and supported!

There are so many terms for priests flying around, it is really hard for us to work out what all the roles mean and therefore to get expectations right. So it is important to be really clear and say a House-for-Duty priest is not an incumbent or Rector. That person is myself, which means I hold the Bishop's Licence for all three, and ultimately the churches are my responsibility. I hope over the vacancy to spend more time at Amberley as we get used to this way of understanding ministry within the benefice. Nor is the House-for-Duty priest a Priest in Charge - that happens when there is no incumbent, and a person is temporarily given charge of the church.

The House-for-Duty post in the benefice is one in which a priest is appointed for three days a week to support the mission and ministry led by the Rector in conjunction with the wider team. In return, they are given a house to live in and have various bills, such as council tax and water rates paid. This is a considerable remuneration when you work out what the package is worth. There is, however, no stipend attached to the post. As we believe in collegiate and collaborative ministry, the advantage of this arrangement is that it makes this post possible! It is impossible to run a busy church like Amberley on three days! But that is not what will be asked of the new person. They are joining a team and therefore will be fully supported in the three days they contribute to the wider team's ministry. In turn, a church such as Amberley benefits from a wider clergy team, who will be present to you and for you. We are already in the joyful position of wonderful collaborative ministry between clergy and laity, in our distinctive but complementary roles. Lay ministry is absolutely essential (and indeed not just a response to a Church of England with less and less clergy, but part of our discipleship - we're supposed to be in it together!). Thank you so much that you get this, and offer such wonderfully vibrant lay ministries which means I can get on with my role. It is worth saying that support and nurturing of lay ministry is perceived as a priority for the clergy team here.

The process is well and truly underway! It began in June with conversations and a pre-vacancy meeting convened and chaired by myself as Rector with the ACC (Archdeacons convene these when it is an incumbent to be appointed). At that meeting we agreed a group of people to work on the Profile which will clearly set out the understanding and expectation of the role, and we believe offers a wonderful opportunity to join a warm and supportive team in which the new person will feel working hours manageable and the team deeply collaborative. There will also be space to be creative and to flourish within that deep understanding of teamwork. The group writing the Profile for the Post comprises The Rector, Jane Foreman, Margaret Keck and John Gilbert / Simon Barker who are taking it in turns to be present at our meetings. The Profile will be drafted and edited several times and approved by both Amberley ACC and Minch and Box PCC - because this is a post that affects the whole benefice. Consequently the Profile will reflect this by giving information about both Amberley and Minch / Box, with a focus on Amberley. Those with key ministries in the church will be asked if sections relating to that aspect of church life accurately reflects what is being described. The Archdeacon also gives her approval.

At the pre-vacancy meeting, we also discussed the timescale - I had a prior meeting with the Archdeacon to discuss all the above and look at what might be realistic. The earliest we could be advertising, is early October, with a view to interviewing in December. The post will be going in The Church Times and so advertised nationally. A representative from Minch and Box will be asked to be on the interview panel to emphasise the benefice role. The earliest someone could be in post is April 2017. It is possible that sometimes there are no applicants or the right person doesn't apply first time round. If this is the case, we do not panic, but simply continue with the mission and ministry across the benefice, as we are doing, and wait and pray in a second round! Pray that God will be stirring the hearts of those looking for posts!

I hope this rather long article helps to answer any questions you might have about the role, the process and where we are in it. Please feel able to come and talk to me if you have any questions or concerns, and feel able to put forth your views about what you think may be important for the Profile to one of those on the writing and editing group! An in the meantime, join us in praying our prayer below:

Heavenly Father,
as we pray during this vacancy within our team,
we ask now that you will help us to share responsibility,
grow in faith, love one another, care for those in need,
reach out to others, and welcome newcomers.
Lord Jesus, guard and grow these churches
as we serve you together in this period.
Please guide those who are seeking the right person for our team,
and those who are seeking the right church for their ministry,
that together we may discover your way for the future
and see your kingdom grow. Amen.

Helen Bailey