From the Revd Colin Midlane
Sir, - Rod Walker's assertion (Letters, 18 October) that "a church
is rudderless without an incumbent" needs querying.
As a retired priest, I have had the pleasure (mainly) and the
privilege of helping to cover a number of vacancies in the past few
years, mainly in the Stepney Area of London diocese. In almost
every case, congregations have remained faithful and energised,
even when an appointment has seemed far off.
Vacancies provide the opportunity and incentive to look again at
the part played by a parish priest, the ministry of every member of
the congregation, and the needs of the parish. Consequently, there
can be the realisation that much can and will continue without the
parish priest: an attention to pastoral care within the
congregation, the maintenance of main acts of corporate worship,
and community contacts with the parish. Congregations need not be
as "sheep without a shepherd", but may realise their dependence on
the one Shepherd.
The experience, it is to be hoped, leads to a great
understanding of shared ministry, and the need for good teamwork
with the new incumbent.
Vacancies in the Stepney Area seem to last on average about nine
months to a year: maybe not ideal, but usually sustainable.
30 Damien Court, Damien Street
London E1 2HL