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Probation for new incumbents?

17 July 2015


Your answers


Should every incumbency begin with a probationary period, as happens in secular employment?


This can now happen under common tenure. Although I had been an incumbent previously, my current appointment followed a period of four years working for a Christian charity. I was automatically put on a one-year probationary period. Towards the end of the probationary year, the Bishop asked the churchwardens for their comments before holding a review session with me. I am pleased to say that my appointment is being confirmed, and I will continue on a general licence.

What is not clear is what would happen were the appointment not to be upheld. It takes at least six months to apply for and move to a new incumbency, not to mention the upheaval for the family of moving yet again, or the effect on the parish(es) concerned.

Secular employment is very different, as the employee does not usually get provided with tied housing, and would not necessarily lose his or her home as a direct result of ceasing that particular employment.

I would hesitate to insist that every incumbency began with a probationary period, but it does have its place, and can provide a useful buffer in certain circumstances.


(The Revd) Ian Enticott


This would not be a good idea. “Human nature being what it is, and ecclesiastical human nature being what it is”, as Professor Norman Sykes was fond of saying, there would be a strong temptation for every newly appointed incumbent to enter upon a whirlwind of activity. Initiative would follow closely upon initiative in an attempt to impress, whereas what the situation calls for is patience and the ability to look, listen, and learn. “He who is in a hurry”, said St Vincent de Paul, “delays the things of God.”


(Canon) John Poarch
Horfield, Bristol


Seeing an institution and induction as more like a wedding will bring out the best in incumbent and congregation. Of course there needs to be careful courtship between potential incumbent and PCC to see whether they can live and work happily together. Then there must be commitment on both sides, and any urgent nettles must be grasped together.

The incumbent visits parishioners as the beloved representative of the congregation rather than their employee. The Bishop is more matchmaker and marriage counsellor than manager.


(Canon) John Goodchild


A vicar will rush around celebrating parish eucharists with sermon in all three benefice churches, plus an additional sung evensong in one of them on every major festival, even though he has a capable and experienced NS assistant priest and an active retired priest who do not celebrate the eucharist on those days, and Reader. His reason is “It is what people expect.” Is it likely that they do; and should they?


It is reasonable for a congregation to expect to see their vicar at public worship regularly. But it is also right for a vicar to enable and support the gifts of others. Failing to model “every-member ministry” by excluding capable members of your own ministry team from duties is not a good example of enabling others.

I would encourage the vicar to attend all the services if he wishes, or feels the need to, but to sit with the congregation while others take a leading part.


(The Revd) Rich Cresswell
Muxton, Telford


Your questions


When conducting holy communion according to the Book of Common Prayer, how much flexibility (if any) does the priest have to omit, edit, expand, amend, or vary the text to suit his or her personal preferences? How should this subject be most constructively raised by a congregation member?

H. W.


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Fri 27 May @ 20:57
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