A vicar in rural Suffolk has announced that he "does not
do pastoral care", i.e. that he will not visit the bereaved, etc.
Is he being reasonable, or is pastoral care part of the ministry of
a rural vicar?
Whether in rural Suffolk or in an urban priority area, a
priest's disclaimer of doing pastoral care, e.g. visiting the
bereaved, the sick, and the housebound, is completely unreasonable
and incredibly sad. This is a serious abrogation of the raison
d'être of ordained ministry as defined in Anglican
The main thrust of the bishop's address to ordinands for
priesthood in the 1500/1662 Ordinals - essentially a translation
from Bucer's De ordinatione legitima - is that they are
called to pastoral care in emulation of the Good Shepherd.
This distinctive emphasis has certainly been retained in the
revised Ordinal of Common Worship, in which priests "are
to set the example of the Good Shepherd always before them as the
pattern of their calling", and "are called to be servants and
shepherds among the people to whom they are sent".
The newly ordained are reminded in the ordination prayer "to
work faithfully with those committed to their charge", and their
pastoral duties are spelt out: "to declare (God's) blessings . . .
and proclaim Christ's victory over the powers of darkness and to
absolve in Christ's name those who turn to him in faith".
These pastoral responsibilities are invariably recalled whenever
a priest is given the cure of the souls of his parishioners by deed
of institution by a bishop, and succinctly summed up in the
traditional form "Accipe curam tuam et meam" - a cure that
is both "thine and mine" - a reminder of the shared pastorate of
every parish priest with the diocesan bishop.
It is difficult to comprehend how any priest can publicly
announce the abandonment of this dimension of ministry, which is so
firmly based on New Testament patterns: "to shepherd the church of
God" (Acts 2.28), "to tend the flock of God that is in your charge"
(1 Peter 5.2), but, above all, the dominical mandate: "Feed my
lambs. . . Tend my sheep" (John 21.15-16).
(Canon) Terry Palmer
All of the vicar's work is pastoral care. I sense a confusion
here, however, between the modern and secular sense of the term
"pastoral care" and the Christian theological sense.
Many modern institutions, including schools, now use the term to
mean the one-to-one counselling of an individual. In the Church,
pastoral care means the shepherding and servant leadership of the
flock, following Christ the Good Shepherd.
Pastoral care of a parish can involve a great deal of one-to-one
care, but also includes all the other aspects of ministry as well.
It is quite possible that in a rural parish the demands of leading
a large flock may mean that more of the one-to-one care of
individuals may need to be delegated to others.
(The Revd) Ben Phillips
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I have applied, and have been shortlisted, for three
incumbencies outside of my current diocese. For each, there has
been a candidate from within the diocese, who was in each case
appointed. Is this a coincidence, or is there some sort of official
or unofficial policy at work in dioceses which makes internal
candidates more likely to be appointed? If there is, is it fair and
legal? Are records kept about the appointment of internal and
external candidates? N. O.
Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question,
Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden
Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.
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