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More on parochial ministry and chaplaincy

19 October 2011


From the Revd Anthony Buckley

Sir, — It was interesting to see last week’s concerned letters about parish ministry in the same issue as a very positive book review about chaplaincy.

I have been a parish priest and am now a school chaplain. I love both ministries. In parish and school, I seek to be alongside the faithful, the search­ing, the indiffer­ent, the antagonistic, the needy, and the satisfied. Both are community opportunities for minis­try and mission. But, extra­ordinarily, there are still whispers that parish ministry is “mainstream” and chaplaincy is not.

If we do not consider daily ex­plicit Christian contact with 1600 people to be part of the mainstream (4000-5000 if you include families), then we run the risk of seriously misunderstanding our calling as a Church. I commend to fellow- readers Bishop John Pritchard’s excellent and positive address to the Chaplaincy Conference in Liverpool in June.

May I offer five suggestions?

First, that we develop a culture of encouraging ministers to spend seasons in different types of minis­try. Experiences and skill-sets would be multiplied; there would be less staleness and burn-out. Parish ministry and chaplaincy would benefit from priests’ having experience of both.

Second, that every diocese ensure that there is someone in senior leadership who has pastoral respon­sibility for chaplains.

Third, that the timings of meet­ings and training opportunities be balanced so that priests in secular employment can attend at least some of them.

Fourth, that training for ministry include, at the very least, an aware­ness-raising session about chaplaincy and, better still, some basic instruc­tion.

Fifth, that deaneries hear reports from chaplains. Much is already happening, but the picture varies greatly across deaneries and dioceses.

The current vibrancy and growth of chaplaincy in parts of our society is a very exciting development. What might happen if the Church could catch this wave?

Hon. Curate of St Barnabas’s, Dulwich, and Chaplain of Alleyn’s School, Dulwich
Alleyn’s School, Townley Road
London SE22 8SU

From Mr David B. Taylor

Sir, — The Revd Geoffrey Squire (Letters, 14 October) has identified a problem, but I am not at all con­vinced by his suggested remedy. He is right that the clergy need to go out into the street — on foot — and talk to people; but wearing a cassock in the modern world will frighten them off rather than engage them.

And initially talking about the sacraments and ringing the bell have nothing to do with it: what he should start talking about is what seems to interest them rather than what he himself wants to say.

The purpose of this? That is identified by Dr Dewi Rees’s letter (same issue). Jesus originally sent out his disciples to teach and to heal, and Dr Rees is quite right to complain that there is little evidence of pastoral care in many ministries today. What one learns by mingling and talking is who needs and who would appreciate visits and assis­tance. “Let your light so shine be­fore men that they may see your good works. . .” When they see that you are a good man and have a useful task to perform, then they will begin to be interested in what you want to say.

I am not sure that it is primarily the sacraments that one should then be talking about. My own prefer­ence would be for scripture — but that probably is a matter of prefer­ence.

15 Ty’n y Maes, Ffestiniog
Gwynedd LL41 4NW

From the Revd Denis Parry

Sir, — The Revd Geoffrey Squire remarks, among other things, that these days the clergy rarely ring their church bell.

When I was on my ordination retreat, I bought a cheap copy of Jean François Millet’s picture The Angelus, which has lived with me ever since. In this picture, a peasant couple have paused in their labour of potato-picking to stand in reverence on hearing the Angelus being rung from a parish church, identified in the distance by its spire.

My own practice during the whole of my ministry was to follow the directions given in the Church in Wales Prayer Book (1984) which read: “It is the duty of the clergy, unless they are prevented by sick­ness or other weighty cause, to say Morning and Evening Prayer daily, preferably in church after tolling the bell” (my italics).

This meant that, regular as clock­work, at seven every morning, I rang the bell (seasonally the An­gelus) before settling down to read Morning Prayer (in winter as warm as toast with cloak and hot-water bottle). It also meant that those who heard the bell (and set their clocks by it) were reminded, like those peasants in Millet’s picture, that prayer was being said on their behalf — vicariously — and that the bell was inviting them also to pause, and perhaps, however briefly, themselves to utter a short prayer at the start of the day.

33 Mill Street, Kington

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