According to the UK Daily Telegraph yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s idea of a good vicar (Church of England jargon for parish priest) is one who holds services in ‘non-traditional venues like pubs and clubs’ and ‘in all kinds of strange places.’
I’ve worked in the Church of England and so can say with some confidence that the administrative demands imposed by the Archbishop’s colleagues and the institution on the one hand, and the pastoral role demanded by the community and by those who already support the church on the other, mean that few if any vicars could possibly be regarded by the Archbishop as good. Unless, that is, they refused to deal with correspondence, initiatives, circulars, questionnaires, funerals, weddings, baptisms, and five or six services a Sunday … and so on.
I must accept that I was not, and still must not be, a good vicar. I don’t have the wherewithal or confidence to evangelize in a pub or club or ‘strange place’ for I am not given to facile answers to difficult questions. I am given to pastoral and intellectual exploration that begins in joy and sorrow and ends in wonder and mystery. I am given to an appreciation of beauty and the liturgy. I am able to hold two opposing viewpoints and still function, I think and hope, reasonably well.
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I do take issue with your assertion:
‘According to the UK Daily Telegraph yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s idea of a good vicar (Church of England jargon for parish priest) is one who holds services in ‘non-traditional venues like pubs and clubs’ and ‘in all kinds of strange places.’
From the Daily Telegraph:
‘The Most Rev Justin Welby said the church would not find new worshippers “accidentally” and so had to set a clear target of filling more pews if it was to tackle the decline in church-going in Britain.
In comments that hinted at the language of corporate expansion, the former oil executive challenged his priests to turn the tide and draw new worshippers to the Anglican faith.
“The reality is that where you have a good vicar, you will find growing churches,” he said.
The Archbishop said an initiative to engage with new worshippers by holding services in non-traditional venues like pubs and clubs had already swollen the church’s ranks by the equivalent of two dioceses.’
My reading of the article is that Justin Welby did not define in any way the parameters of a ‘good vicar’ other than to say that where there are increasing congregations, you will find a good vicar.
But I suspect that you knew that anyway.
Conor Cusack in the interview in Irish Examiner last Saturday said:
‘He’s still learning. About life, spirituality, himself. You ask him how he now is, has he learned who he now is, and like his story, his answer takes you on a bit of a journey.
“You know, it’s been more finding out who I wasn’t and am not. I’ve found that I’m not my hurling, my job, my family, I’m not single or married. One of the things I’m kind of conflicted about at the moment is how I feel about my religion. I’m more spiritual than religious but I like going to mass. I like the peace of the church and I like the sense of community it can bring. But I find myself disagreeing with quite a lot of what church figures say. The original message of Christ was ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.’ And what the Catholic Church often forgot was the ‘as thyself’ bit. Love thyself. I’m not talking from a narcissistic point of view, where you think the world revolves around you. But rather getting to a place where you’re comfortable in your own being, where you don’t allow yourself to be controlled by anyone. But instead of empowering people, the Church has controlled people. ‘
I am with him in liking the peace and the community aspect of a church.
If that community happens to be ‘in all kinds of strange places’ then so be it…..
‘The reality is that where you have a good vicar, you will find growing churches.’ I can think of many exceptions to this. His view of what constitutes ‘good’ must be more prescriptive than mine. Thank you for your comments.
I have sent an edited version as a letter to Lambeth Palace. I credited the man with a bit more intelligence than that – if the reporting is accurate. Ye Gods.
I long ago resigned myself to being a failure in the eyes of people like Justin Welby – but I did have a rather higher percentage of people in church at Christmas than he did.