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Case for a limit on multi-church benefices

by
28 July 2010

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From the Revd Mark Bailey

Sir, — I recently officiated at a funeral at which two visiting churchwardens from different parts of the country were present. Both mentioned that their respective rectors were off sick, suffering a mental breakdown. Both priests were responsible for ministering in the countryside — one to 15 churches, the other to 11.

One churchwarden complained that this was the second time that one of their rectors had suffered stress-related mental illness. The other complained that only one applicant had applied for the post when advertised: no one else wanted to take on overall responsibility for 11 churches.

Given current budgetary constraints affecting dioceses, and another swath of reorganisation being implemented across the Church of England, is it not now time for national guidelines to be drawn up to help dioceses in developing realistic job-descriptions, including limiting the number of parishes any one incumbent can reasonably be expected to serve?

The line will need to be drawn somewhere if the Church of England is to take more seriously its responsibility for the mental health of its clergy.

MARK BAILEY
The Rectory, 6 Green Close
South Wonston
Winchester SO21 3EE

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