Pastoral visiting: no longer a job for the incumbent?
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
Sir, — The Revd Elaine Dando (“Where is
our bedside manna?”,
Features, 27 August) asks an important question about the pastoral ministry
of the clergy in the Church of the future, but seems unable to think radically
about the need to establish priorities.
Most bishops and archdeacons now rightly
expect their clergy to develop with their PCCs coherent strategies for mission,
and a style of collaborative ministry in which the priest is viewed as a
trainer and a resource. A parish with a committed pastoral group, enthusiastic
to hone its skills and encouraged by a positive response from other members of
the laity, need only involve the clergy in the most urgent or sensitive
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Most clergy who are effective leaders are
also well-motivated pastorally. But it is now unreasonable to expect that they
alone should be responsible for all pastoral care, as well as developing the
wider remit that ministry teams need. It is not wanting in compassion to want
your church and its liturgy to be properly resourced.
Mrs Dando has, by her own account,
experienced en-suite pastoral attention from her clergy, who have not only been
present in times of acute crisis, but also apparently to collect prescriptions
and boost vitamin levels. I am not sure that all those activities constitute
the “charism of priesthood” which she wishes to preserve, although I am happy
to agree that sitting with the dying certainly does.
I, too, could indulge in a
nostalgic fantasy about trading in my car, buying a bicycle, putting my dog in
the basket, and knocking on village doors, delivering cakes and stout. But that
is not going to address the complex social needs of a 21st-century Church. We
have spent long enough being a “nanny Church” and creating the wrong kind of
dependency. We need to be imaginative in drawing on the skills God has already
placed in our congregations to enable pastoral ministry to be seen as the work
of the whole Body of Christ (not just the vicar), and thereby extending and
making visible the
55 Main Road
Essex CM3 4NG
Sir, — As a priest who has been trying to
involve the laity in ministry since the 1960s, may I endorse totally what the
Revd Elaine Dando has to say in her article concerning the work of the clergy.
There should be no contradiction in what
she is saying about our priestly priorities and involving Christians in
ministry to which all are called by our Lord. There are, indeed, some who wish
to see priests mainly as managers. I believe they are misguided, although there
may well be lessons that we can learn from management principles.
Incumbents today are called to pastoral
leadership: a different concept, which implies that we need to be “in touch”
with the people we are called to shepherd. If the leader is out of touch, then
woe betide the flock. We are called to be pastors (shepherds), and in biblical
times the shepherd led the flock. But, according to Jesus, the good shepherd
goes out of his way to seek the individual who is lost.
Becoming the leader implies that we know
the sheep and care for them. That is what I have tried to do — very
inadequately — throughout my ministry. The ministry of the whole church cannot
function effectively and compassionately if the priest does not set the example
for which Elaine Dando is calling. That is just what Jesus did, and we would do
well to learn from him.
The Old Mill
Blandford DT11 9DF
Sir, — Many will have been delighted to
read the Revd Elaine Dando’s plea for a restoration of the parochial and
pastoral ministry. Yet why have you subtitled the article “Priests have their
Usually, the clergy long to spend more
time in pastoral visiting, but, under diocesan allocation of stipends (not a
shortage of priests), we find ourselves serving larger clusters of parishes,
travelling, and sitting at PCCs, but not ringing door bells. There is in sight
a downward slide towards disobedience to our Lord, and insignificance.
Have our Synod members become so
enthralled by the godly efficiency of diocesan boards of finance that they
agree to every cut without question, or are they just turkeys voting for
2 Bunkers Hill
Sir, — To me, as a layman, it is
incredible that any priest can say (vide Ms Dando) that “they do not have time
for pastoral visiting.” Why, then, are they “in the ministry” at all?
I write as an 85-year-old Reader Emeritus
who (when permitted) gains great spiritual joy as I visit friends and families
in the parish. It is at such times, “when the light surprises”, that an
ordinary visit can reveal, in fellowship, quite different needs, anxieties and
concerns. The rewards of visiting are beyond description.
A church that has an agenda that does not
allow visiting to be at least of equal importance to worship, prayer and praise
is ignoring the biblical imperative and Christ’s directive.
LEONARD J. GRIFFITHS
2/12 The Avenue