Worth remembering

22 March 2013

THE diocese of Worcester has taken steps to remind people how much the Church owes to those clergy who do not get paid a stipend. It has published a booklet that highlights the diversity of the ordained ministry, and tells the stories of 13 of its non-stipendiary priests, including teachers, a sex-educator, a retired chemical engineer, and a psychiatrist.

Tellingly, its title is You Do What?, which sums up the surprise that some clergy meet, both in their church environment and in their secular work, when their double lives are revealed. In his foreword to the book, the Bishop, Dr John Inge, says that he has come to realise that there are as many different sorts of non-stipendiary ministers, and ministers in secular employment, as there are people offering such a ministry.

"Some of them are pretty much indistinguishable from stipendiary licensed clergy in all respects except that of receiving a stipend," he says. "Others, particularly ministers in secular employment, inhabit the borderlands between the institutional Church and life in the secular world in a way that is immensely enriching to both."

In the booklet, the Revd Sally Morris, who teaches science in a secondary school, and frequently wears her clerical collar, is often faced with the leading question: "Can you be a scientist and believe in God at the same time?" Another priest, the Revd Eric Knowles (above), tells of being made redundant from his secular job and visiting the job centre still wearing his clerical collar.

He shared in all the disappointments and loss of confidence felt by those who are made redundant. Eventually, he found another job, and again shared in all the vicissitudes of office life in a precarious employment environment, until another shake-up brought early retirement. Now he is both Priest-in-Charge of Little Malvern Priory, and chaplain to the Air Training Corps, and feels that he has experienced a kind of resurrection. The booklet has been compiled by Canon Jane Fraser, who is a consultant in sexual- health issues as well as an Associate Priest in Upton-upon-Severn.

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