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The ministry of the clergy in retirement

16 August 2013


From Mr Adrian F. Sunman

Sir, - I was sorry to read the letter from the retired vicar's wife ( 9 August) lamenting the lack of opportunities for ministry in their retirement parish.

Most incumbents enthusiastically welcome the services of retired clergy to help lighten what can be a heavy load. It is fair to say that the Church of England would collapse if their assistance wasn't available. It is not clear from the lady's letter, though, whether her husband has actively volunteered his services or passively awaited an invitation to officiate.

I suggest that she and he arrange a timed appointment to discuss matters with the incumbent or priest in charge of the church where they worship. It may be that he or she might genuinely be unable to offer any work at present, but will almost certainly know a colleague in a parish near by who is struggling and would be glad of help.

It may be that the diocese has an organisation for retired clergy which could put her husband in touch with other people in a similar position and possibly suggest openings for ministry. Perhaps that is something that could be investigated.

Any new phase in life, be it a change of school or job or, retirement, requires a period of adjustment for getting used to new routines and opportunities. At such times, perhaps the best advice is to be patient and not lose heart but try and stay optimistic.

1 Lunn Lane
South Collingham
Newark, Notts NG23 7LP

Sir, - Fortunate the priest and his or her spouse if they are really welcomed into their retirement parish!

I retired 11 years ago, and my wife and I worshipped in the parish church for about four years. Never once was I asked to celebrate the eucharist or to preach during this time - even though I remember being told at college (in the 1960s) that every parish will make an altar available for a retired priest at least once a month.

When the incumbent and assistant curate were both off ill at the same time, the churchwardens were cancelling services. Asked by members of the congregation why I had not offered to take services,I had to reply that they, the churchwardens, had told me that I was not wanted.

Having been a rural dean before retirement, I always welcomed those retired clergy in the deanery who wished to attend chapter meetings. What did I find when I retired? I attended a meeting of the deanery chapter (having heard of it at third hand) only to be told by the Rural Dean: "I shall not start this meeting until you go." See how these Christians love one another!

I was fortunate in being asked by a priest in another diocese (I live on the border) to help during the interregnum, as he was about to move. His successor has continued to make me welcome.

Although there have been two changes of incumbent in the parish where I reside, I still have never been invited to anything.

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