What is a Curate?
We are very fortunate to be getting a curate from 19 June, and very fortunate that curate is to be Deborah Curram, who comes bringing so much experience with her. She will be with us for 3 1/2 days per week, and I am looking forward to welcoming her and working with her in this parish. However, it seems worth our talking about what a curate is and isn't before she gets here, so that we all have the right expectations.
There are two ordinations that take place when an ordinand reaches the end of their training, and it is worth explaining that. Her first ordination, on 19 June, means that she is ordained as a deacon: this is simply a word lifted from the Greek which means servant! Those who are ordained remain a deacon all their lives, in the sense that we are the servants of God. Those who have been through that first ordination are, however, not yet priests (although they are referred to as The Reverend... in written texts). For that reason the first ordination is often called a 'deaconing' to distinguish it as such. In her first year, Deborah will not therefore be able to exercise a 'priestly ministry' - by which we mean she cannot yet preside at a Eucharist, conduct weddings, say the absolution in the service, say the final blessing (unless the inclusive language of 'we' is used i.e. a lay blessing) or hear people's confessions. You will see Deborah gradually taking on all other aspects of the role, from pastoral visiting to preaching, or officiating at funerals and baptisms for example, as all of these she can do in her first year.
In 2017, she will be ordained again! And this time it is her 'priesting', by which we mean she fully becomes a priest, and is then able to do all of the above.
It is worth our understanding that getting a curate is not simply 'getting an extra pair of hands.' Curacy is a training post, and we are her training parish. As part of that, I am her training incumbent. What that means is that we are here to give Deborah all sorts of opportunities and experience as she grows and develops in her ministry as an ordained member of clergy. She comes with much to give; she will also have much she is doing for the first time and will gradually be building upon the experience and training she is receiving.
As part of that training process, there are heavy demands on both training incumbent and curate. Deborah and I will meet for regular supervision sessions, as we both explore and prepare for what is coming up that she will be doing, and then discuss afterwards her experience of those aspects and the feedback she will receive from myself and others. We have to put a lot of time aside to that role, and we will also be attending compulsory training events run by the Diocese. Deborah will also be required to attend curate training separately, and I shall be required to continue meeting with other training incumbents as we are also trained in our role. In addition, Deborah has assignments to write, a portfolio to keep about all she is learning, and we also give time to this together. The curate events and demands always take precedent over any parish ministry, so there may be some parish activities Deborah is not at because she is required to be elsewhere.
Deborah is someone who already has much genuine ministry to offer as she comes to serve within our community. Those of us who know her, know that we are very lucky to be welcoming her as our curate here. Nevertheless, it is always the case that when a new curate arrives, the amount of time that goes into that training is huge from both curate and training incumbent. As Deborah grows in her own ministry and priestly formation, we will, I am confident, very soon delight in all that she has to bring as she ministers within this community during her training.
We are looking forward to welcoming her in our parish very much!