Tuesday, 10 January 2012

What on earth do vicars do with their time?

One of the things that the Church of England’s bureaucracy has manage to come up with following the introduction of ‘Common Tenure’ is the so-called ‘rôle description’.
No doubt this seemed like a good idea at the time. No doubt someone thought it would be a way of regularizing or systematizing the perhaps rather-haphazard assumptions that are made about clergy and the work they do.
Unfortunately, they reckoned without the capacity of human beings in general, and people who don’t actually do a job (or perhaps even understand it very well) to screw things up when they get their hands on them.
If you don’t believe me, here is an actual rôle description for a vicar’s post currently being advertised in the Diocese of Chelmsford. Just to save you counting, there are thirty-four paragraphs under the list of specifics. Read them and choke on your coffee.

(i) General Statement of Purpose
All incumbents are Priests in the Church of England whose responsibilities and duties are set out in the Ordinal. Incumbents are additionally licensed by the Bishop to exercise a shared ministry of leadership in a particular context where they will usually be the representative, public face of the church
1. The provision of evangelical, Bible-based worship, administration of the Sacraments, preaching, education, pastoral care, nurture, service, evangelism and leadership that is both Kingdom focussed and a locally relevant response to the Five Marks of Mission in order that:
a. each worshipping congregation is a transforming presence in and for their local community and is connected with the wider church and world, and
b. the vocational gifts and ministries of the whole people of God are discerned, developed and deployed.
2. The collaborative exercise of leadership with the Bishop, other clergy and lay people in the benefice, deanery and diocese to further God’s mission and ministry.
3. The blend of congregational, local community, and wider civic, social and/or church involvement that every licensed clergy person is expected to exercise.

(ii) Specific Statement of Purpose and Key Responsibilities
The following eight sections summarise the main duties and responsibilities of an incumbent of [...]. The balance between what is done personally and what is delegated will vary widely, but in every case the responsibility for ensuring these things are addressed lies with the incumbent (in some cases jointly with the PCC). The exercise of ministry should always be collaborative and make use of the gifts entrusted by God to his people in each particular place. It will be important to have in mind the demography and geography of the parish and its place in the town of Chelmsford so that the appropriate needs of different ages, backgrounds and stages of faith can be addressed

1. Mission, Service and Outreach
develop a ministry that gives expression to each of the Five Marks of Mission
provide opportunities for individuals to discover and learn about the Christian faith
interpret the Gospel afresh for this generation in this context, which may include new forms of church and discipleship, to lead new people of all ages and backgrounds in their walk with Christ
open up the power of the Holy Spirit working in existing Christians to show God’s love in action through evangelism, service, witness and discipleship
make use of opportunities for outreach and service to the community, collaborating where appropriate with other churches, agencies, community organisations, local authorities and institutions
engage with local, national and world mission and development agencies.

2. Leadership and working collaboratively
lead the benefice in discerning, setting and holding its vision within the context of the deanery and diocesan vision and strategy 
motivate and empower members of the church, to achieve that vision

build up the community of faith, sharing ministry as appropriate and working collaboratively with others, (including clergy colleagues, churchwardens, PCC, staff and volunteers), so that individuals’ gifts and talents are identified and used effectively
work with other churches in the deanery in implementing the deanery vision and play a full part in the life of the Deanery Chapter and Synod.
partner with ecumenical colleagues and churches whenever appropriate

3. Worship, prayer, preaching and teaching
 oversee a pattern of evangelical Bible-based worship and prayer for all ages and stages of faith
oversee a programme of teaching and preaching which supports the Church as a learning community, develops its faith and responds to the needs of different ages and levels of faith
interpret and preach the gospel in ways that encourage faith development, adapting content and style for different audiences, occasions and purposes.

4. Pastoral care
oversee the structures and resources to provide appropriate care to the congregation and community
lead the provision of pastoral care as appropriate, including baptism and marriage preparation, care to the sick dying and bereaved, individual support and visiting
show awareness of own limitations and boundaries; and of other individuals and agencies to whom referrals can be made.

5. Discipleship, Vocation and Stewardship
oversee appropriate preparation for baptism, confirmation, communion and discipleship that encourages life-long growth and development
encourage a culture in which vocational discernment and response is a natural part of the church’s life
enable every Christian to discern their calling from God and to use the gifts, skills and experience that have been entrusted to them in the family, church, workplace and world
ensure that each person receives the appropriate support and training to exercise their ministry in response to God’s calling
lead by example and teaching on the responsibility of stewardship and giving. Encourage the congregation to meet their proper obligations to the benefice and to the wider church. Work with the PCC to develop its current policy of mission giving

6. Parish Organisation and Communication
ensure that structures and resources for parish organisation are appropriate, including clear boundaries and accountabilities of roles
ensure that structures, processes and policies in relation to services, weddings, baptisms and funerals, health and safety, child protection, finance, fabric, staff employment and management, etc. to meet diocesan and legal requirements
communicate effectively and appropriately in both written and verbal form with people of all ages and situations in society, inside and outside the church
undertake personal administration, planning and organisation in a collaborative and open manner with appropriate delegation. Ensure meetings are planned and chaired effectively.

7. Personal development and spirituality
be a person of prayer with a clear reliance on God and an obvious and outward-looking faith
model an appropriate pattern of work that enables a rounded spiritual and personal life while meeting the proper demands of ministry.
Continue to develop personal skills and knowledge in relation to ministry through appropriate use of CMD grants and relevant reading, study, consultancy, training courses and workshops
maintain a worshipping and prayerful spiritual life with appropriate support structures (including spiritual direction, networks of support and regular retreats)
make full use of time off to care for self, household and personal relationships, including adequate time for family life, friendship, recreation, renewal and personal health

8. Wider Ministry
serve beyond the parish at local, deanery, diocesan and national level by offering time, wisdom and skills to serve the wider church’s ministry and mission.
play an appropriate part in the civic and community life of the locality (e.g. governance of local schools and/or charities)
learn from the traditions and diversity of the wider national and world church.

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  1. This may well save many clergy in the diocese from having to write their own. They can just cut & paste as needed!

  2. How much do they get paid?

    Chris Bishop

  3. I counted 138 specific responsibilities in that list. The trouble is that this is the actual job description of many clergy.

  4. Try adding in the resposibilities of a 'Rural Dean' or the 'Dual Post' ministry that many dioceses make a part and parcel of a parish ministry!!!
    Been there and done that!

    Blessings on all active clergy.

  5. And we wonder why there is burn-out. I'd collapse just reading the job description.

  6. While I can understand why common tenure was introduced, the effect as with so much other legislation has been to increase the resources needed at the diocesan centre to implement and oversee the bureaucracy. We are increasingly moving to a system with a middle layer of management, and this creates a tension with local churches who do not understand why they should have to subsidise this.

    The key question about all of the above - how is any of this enforceable and by whom?

  7. All true, probably, but as Basil Fawlty once said of Sybil - "Name? Sybil Fawlty. Specialist Subject? The bleedin' obvious."

    Do they think we are all stupid?

  8. It is not only the clergy. Many other jobs, especially in education, have similar job descriptions. Did I miss 'have a duty to promote theological diversity and multi-faith synthesis'?

  9. Anonymous, you wrote:

    "Did I miss 'have a duty to promote theological diversity ...?"

    Yes, you did:

    "learn from the traditions and diversity of the wider national and world church."

  10. Think I'll stick with the ordinal!

  11. Stephen Bazlinton11 January 2012 at 19:06

    Sadly this sort of bureaucratic listing is the norm in any walk of life today. I am a dentist and next week we have a Quality Care Commission inspection. The CQC has made the running of small dental practices a nightmare. We have to comply with the same legistlation that applies to the largest hospital. A group trying to help practices comply has just issued me with 12 sides of A4 describing the sort of questions that we might be faced with on the day. It means that the normal clinical practice of doing dentistry has to become relegated to second place as we wrestle ticking boxes and trying to find out was is required. As a provider of dental services, the the Health Care legistlation which describes the remit of the CQC calls referes to me thus: 'the provider, it shall.........'!!! This has all really come about because of a certain doctor who chose to terminate many of his patient's lives. As a result all health carers are regarded as untrustworthy and every movement of their professional lives must be checked, calibrated, and explained by an army officials. Also remember that without a vast army of pen pushers there would be many unemployed. We therefore have to pay the CQC £800 a year for the privelege of this guardianship. Next year they start on the medical profession. As a non-stipendary I don't quite no what to say to you full timers! perhaps: 'Whatever you do do it unto the Lord and not to men'.

  12. Forgive me, I'm a bit slow on the uptake here. I don't get this post.

    Is your point that there is way too much in the list? It seemed to me that someone has tried to exhaustively describe the job, but doesnt the above boil down to teach, lead the church and reach out to others?

    Apart from being (excessively?) exhaustive, what are the other problems?is it that it follows the rest of our culture in encouraging people to over work?


  13. Stephen Bazlinton11 January 2012 at 23:45

    The point is I believe that wherever you seem to look today there is an overbearing prescriptive culture developing. A form of totalitarianism in which independent thinking, self motivation, moral imperatives are prescibed from 'above' and not encouraged from those who actually execute the task they are involved in. It does not actually encourage individuals to overwork, it simply increases the work load and provides employment for those who oversee the regulated. This I believe is the result of a departure from the doctrine of grace through faith in Christ. A culture cannot be regulated by ticking boxes, neither can it be saved by increasing regulation, through a change in heart. See Thomas Chalmers 1780-1847: 'The expulsive power of a new affection'.

  14. I think, regardless of my previous slightly flippant post, that there are serious issues here for the church. The message I get from this pile of words is that nobody trusts anybody to perform a task without having it exactly defined in detail (usually by someone who has never done it).

    And if the bishops in our diocese trust no-one at all, as the use of this document implies, then what has become of the Christian community known as the diocese of Chelmsford? Possibly the advert was placed by a parish - in which case only box-tickers need apply, because they are not prepared to trust you to be their Vicar. People of experience and training should stay well away.

  15. Well, I'm probably the exception, but I find this quite helpful. I'm a vicar who's voluntarily choosing to accept a common tenure role description - largely because I need to be "reviewed" (appraised), and without a clear agreed statement of what my job is supposed to be it would be very hard for anyone to review me. Bear in mind that although the example you cite is for a church now advertising for a new pastor, he or she will have a chance when they've been in post a few months to modify it (with the bishop's approval) to more exactly express the balance of ministry as they live it out.
    Andy, Galleywood

  16. Andy,

    I think you illustrate the problem in the above reply. We sort of expect, we who sit in the pews, that all of the above would have been part of your training and subsequent experience, and thus universally applicable wherever you find yourself. Looking at it in detail (and I have read it), it seems to be that only section 3 might be modified from place to place to account for churchmanship.

    I'm reminded of one of the places that all this springs from - after the ENRON scam in the US some years ago, two Senators decided to sort out the mess by promoting financial legislation whose basic premise was that nobody should trust anybody else, and thus a complex compliance procedure was developed where nobody did. It was named after them (Sarbanes-Oxley, or SOX for short).

    That's why we have box-ticking, because trust has disappeared, and if the Church can't witness to the rightness of trust, then who is going to do so?

  17. Hi Richard,

    Thank you for engaging.

    No, I can assure you mine looks radically different from this. I won't reproduce it here on John's site, but suffice it to say my first paragraph is as follows:

    Role purpose (general):
    *To LOVE AND WORSHIP GOD and draw others to love and worship him
    *To SERVE the people of Galleywood and South Chelmsford and equip God’s people to do the same
    *To ARTICULATE the story of Jesus, his gospel call, and the vision of the parish church and deanery such that men, women and children respond in repentance, faith and the formation of healthy growing churches
    *To EXPERIMENT with new ways to do church and inspire others to do the same

    Then of course these points are expanded in ways that fit my particular context. I suspect that the one John has quoted looks less idiosyncratic precisely because the church concerned is looking for a new pastor.

    As for box-ticking - surely it would be fair enough for someone appraising me to look at my ministry and say (for example) "I see that you are indeed worshipping God, but I can see no evidence at all that you have articulated the gospel in the last 12 months, you're not meeting your role".

    Andy, Galleywood

  18. "What on earth do vicars do with their time?' Wallow in parish administration, buildings' management and try and sort out the petty squabbles of small minded parishioners... which is probably why of the eight or so friends I have who are ordained - none now remain in stipended parish ministry!

  19. Perhaps this piece from our Lutheran friends would fit in here --


    Bruce Robison
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

  20. I fully agree with both the spirit and letter of Stephen Bazlinton. The list demonstrates yet again, the nature and to a large degree the irrelevance of the institutional church system as it opearates in practice.

    The above list does not approximate to much found in the role, functioning, and simplicity of order for New Testament elders. Ig these rules were translated into 1st century terminology there would never have been any elders in the churches. Is it not safe to believe that many elders (ministers) in the early days of the church were ordinary men, mature in the faith, and able to nmeet the inspired standards of 1 Timothy 3:1-7?
    The above job description is completely alien to a New Testament doctrine of ministry, and more akin to that of a CEO of any commercial organisation.
    The essential function of NT elders according to Paul in Eph. 4:11,12, is for elders/pastors/leaders to "perfect", or equip Christians for THEIR work of ministry. In a word - the ministry of the former is primarily a means to this end, not an end in itself.