The Role of the Clergy
The grapevine suggests that some query may exist over the role of clergy in church life in the new system, so it may be worth giving some space to clarify. In the Rectorial Benefice system, there exists a Rector (Ministry Area Leader), who holds the incumbency, but not by him- or herself; Vicars, who by right (not delegation) share in the Rector’s incumbency; and NSMs, who are licensed to the MA. As the MA will be, legally, one large parish, this means that all of the clergy are licensed to the whole ministry area; we will no longer be licensed to exclusively one church.
That said, long experience, backed by solid research, suggests that churches thrive best when they know who “their” priest is. Although the language of “focal ministry” is not as much in favour as in previous years, the principle still stands. To be sure: it will be of value for each of our parishes to know and engage with all the MA clergy in appropriate ways. But, for avoidance of doubt, be assured that “your” priest and his or her ministry will not be taken away; he or she will continue to be the point of first contact and guiding leader and pastor at the local church level. It is, indeed, that simple.
Our work as clergy at the MA level is collaborative, and we are already working hard to build a strong ethos of regular mutual consultation, consensus-building, and prayer as colleagues. It is to be hoped, on the one hand, that this ethos will spill down to the parishes, as well, in practical ways. On the other hand, your local clergy will continue to chair your LCC, to provide the key Sunday presence in your locality — though invitations to one another’s churches are always welcome! — and to exercise primary pastoral ministry. The MAL wishes to get to know each of these parishes and as many parishioners as possible and will seek opportunities to be available to all — but not at the expense of your own priest’s ability to thrive in ministry in his or her own place. Maindee will still have Fr. Will as parish priest; St. Julian’s, Fr. David; Alway, Fr. Sam; Lliswerry, Rev’d Linda; Caerleon, Rev’d Sue; Christchurch, Fr. Stephen.
Two of our parishes (St. Julian’s & Alway), it must be noted, have a particular stance on the sacramental ministry of women that will be respected in line with current Anglican norms, and they must be assured of this. In turn, their clergy have set a firm example of respecting +Cherry’s ministry as the ordinary of our diocese and the ministries of our local female colleagues. The modern Anglican approach encourages “mutual flourishing”, and that will be our watchword. We are required to live in communion to the fullest extent possible and to love one another even in the midst of ambiguities.