Sir, — Further to your article about Save Our Parsonages
(Features, 25 February), I have lived for 11 years in vicarages in two
urban-priority-area parishes. I am set apart from everyone else because these
houses are substantially different from surrounding properties. I believe this
separation feeds the fire of anti-social behaviour against the church. I have
had rubbish strewn in my garden and windows broken, to name a few problems:
actions aimed at me because of the nature of the house in which I live.
An added dimension of the problems of parsonage life in this parish is that
it is a multi-church benefice. I live next to the older of the two churches,
and some people who worship at that church see me as their Vicar over and
against being Vicar of the other church, indeed as Vicar of that parish. A
decision was taken in 2003 to sell off the parsonage next to the other church.
That house was a target for vandals when lived in, and is even more so now that
it is empty. We attach too much value to buildings, and need to shed this
over-dependence on material things, which create loyalties not necessarily of
our gospel faith.
An alternative is to house the clergy in normal homes in relatively
anonymous estates. This makes for incarnational living, because it places the
clergy in homes alongside the laity with whom they serve. For too long we have
been set apart, and this is not good for the body of Christ. The very
appearance of this vicarage singles me out as different, if not as a cut above
the people whom I serve. In parishes like this, I would strongly advocate
selling off the parsonages, and moving the likes of me to a house that is safe
and secure and that does not stick out like a sore thumb.
St Mary’s Vicarage, 50 Cragside Walk, Leeds LS5 3QE