Over the past few years, the Church of England has been starting to make greater use of the new provision to appoint Interim Ministers to parishes. These are fixed term appointments for a maximum of three years (although they can be renewed once to make a maximum of six years). Interim posts are primarily about helping parishes to respond to new circumstances or a new mission opportunity, and are about helping PCC, congregations and local communities to make the shifts in understanding, relationships and leadership that are needed to enable them to move forward well.
The legislation particularly suggests that interim ministry can enable parishes to:
- Come to terms with the past, lose old fears, find new hopes, and perhaps discover a fresh
- See if they have a future together with other parishes and whether pastoral reorganisation is viable;
- Consider their future witness, mission and ministry;
- Reassess their resources, needs and priorities;
- See where and how they need to change, and work through the inevitable transition;
- Make plans for the future and;
- Prepare for the next chapter of their life.
St Andrew’s Kildwick and St John’s Cononley with St Mary’s Bradley are both parishes where the respective vicars have recently left after long ministries: 20 years in the case of Revd John Peet at Cononley with Bradley, and 16 years for Revd Robin Figg at St Andrew’s. Knowing we have fewer clergy available to deploy, and more limited financial resources, there have been plans in place for some years that these two adjoining parishes should be served in future by a single incumbent. With both parishes now being vacant, these plans now need to be put into effect.
After such lengthy periods of continuous ministry from the previous vicars, the two parishes are therefore now entering a period of considerable change. This change needs to be carefully managed. There are also some difficult questions – some new, some long-standing – that must be addressed. That is why, following the appropriate and necessary consultations locally and within the Diocese, an interim ministry appointment is being progressed for the two parishes. This will be for up to three years as a shared role working with the parishes to bring about the necessary changes to build a platform for a sustainable and flourishing ministry in these villages into the future.
Five specific tasks have been identified that will be expected of the Interim Minister:
- Establishing a coherent, attractive and workable pattern of worship across the three villages.
- Developing, agreeing and implementing a pastoral scheme for the future of the two parishes:
this should include a consideration of the needs and opportunities for co-operation with other adjoining parishes, especially the benefice of Sutton, Cowling and Lothersdale, as well as the lessons to be learnt from that benefice’s history.
- Developing and starting to implement a sustainable strategy for new ministry and styles of worship to reach out to reach out to children, young people and families.
- Evaluating the needs, opportunities and challenges of the three church buildings in furthering the churches’ mission in the parishes and developing
and agreeing plans for their future in conjunction with PCCs and the DAC.
- Helping the parishes develop and articulate their identity in a new and developing relationship with each other, setting them up so that they know what kind of skills and experience they are seeking in a new incumbent.
The Interim Minister will also undertake the responsibilities normally associated with a vicar. However, to ensure that there is good progress in taking forward the five important specific tasks, there will inevitably be less time available to commit to these responsibilities. Expectations of the interim minister must therefore be realistic.
As well as the usual support that can be expected from the Church Wardens, PCCs and congregations, the Interim Minister will also have good back up and advice available from the team of Diocesan officers whose roles relate to the specific tasks above. I also expect to meet regularly with them to keep things under review and particularly to help ensure that the specific tasks associated with the interim role are progressing well.
I am really grateful for the speed with which everyone has concluded the necessary consultation. There are just a couple of further details yet to finalise, including where the minister will live, but we expect to be able to progress the appointment quickly. In the meantime, I hope you will join me in praying about the appointment of your Interim Minister, and for the Lord to be preparing this person, yourselves and the people of Cononley and Bradley for all He has in store for you over these next few years.
Archdeacon of Bradford