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Vicar ‘does not do pastoral care’

by
13 December 2013

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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 Ordinals.

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
Magor Monmouthshire


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.

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