From the Revd Rebecca H. Watts
Sir, - In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the
disgraced Wickham has to leave his regiment in the south of England
and redeploy to the "regulars" in Newcastle, "a place quite
northward". The Revd Rachel Mann (Comment, 9 January)
is right to observe that certain 19th-century novels (which include
representations of Anglicanism) are located in the world of
relative privilege and in the south.
A glance at the Newcastle diocesan website will show that many
of the posts currently advertised up here are non-stipendiary or
house-for-duty. This means that those selected for these posts will
be drawn from those who can survive without a stipend, or those of
a certain age drawing a pension. Women clergy, in particular, may
feel a pressure to accept a non-stipendiary position if their
partner has a salary. Younger male or female clergy with children
thinking of relocating to the north would surely struggle to
survive on the income of their non-clergy spouse. Lack of money in
Newcastle diocese is the reason that more stipendiary positions are
not on offer. Clergy are hardly likely to relocate to the north for
The catholicity of the Church of England is at stake. Solutions
may be for wealthier link dioceses to contribute to their partner
diocese (Winchester is linked with Newcastle); church-planting into
existing small congregations, and the formation of relationships
with ordinands from the south during their training. There also
needs to be a recognition of the fact that Newcastle diocese is
largely rural and has a low population outside its urban and
"market-town" centres. Rather than the management of decline, what
is needed is an investment in paid clergy for the purpose of
growing congregations, especially in places where the majority of
people are living.
The north is poorer than the south, and the crisis of
recruitment in the Church in the north follows naturally on from
the lack of money available to employ clergy here.
7 Westfield Avenue
Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 4YH
From the Revd Rachel Wood
Sir, - Thank you for the Revd Rachel Mann's article "Far from
those dark, satanic mills". As an English graduate brought up on
Teesside, and having experienced four northern dioceses as a priest
and married to a priest, I would love more literary role-models of
northern ministry to affirm and inspire.
Although currently out of print, another novel by Catherine Fox,
Love for the Lost, is a moving and resonant imagining of
ministry in the post-industrial landscape of the north-east.
Richard T. Kelly also had a go in Crusaders.
The impact made by post-industrialisation on the churches and
ministry in the north-east is in real need of a considered and
creative theological and literary response.
St Hilda's Vicarage
North Shields NE29 9QB
From the Revd Anna Macham
Sir, - The Revd Rachel Mann makes an important point about the
(literary) association of the C of E with class privilege. But I
feel more hopeful about the ways in which contemporary fiction is
already starting to reimagine Anglican clerical identity.
To give just three examples: Adam Foulds's "The Rules are the
Rules" (2010) is a heartbreaking, chilling story about a gay vicar
isolated in faceless suburbia (could be north or south) who, while
reaching out to his underprivileged community, hides behind work
and ritual to avoid confronting his fears.
Nicola Barker's strange, hilarious novel The Yips
(2012) is set in Luton, and has a female vicar with an activist
background who has to rethink her life and ministry.
Samantha Harvey's story "Flowers Appear on the Earth" (2013) is
set on an island off the Cornish coast and features a vicar who
cries with the residents when disaster strikes their factory, and
stands by the disenfranchised factory workers when they are poorly
treated by Westminster.
These might seem small examples, but they are sensitive,
well-observed, and humane depictions from major voices in
contemporary fiction which seem to me to be about anything but
clerical aspiration to higher levels of society. I find it
encouraging that - while the background of the clergy depicted is
still middle-class - modern authors are choosing to emphasise the
more positive aspect of establishment, in that they take priestly
ministry and its power to help change a local community
St Philip's Vicarage
London SE1 5PD
From Mr Richard Pratt
Sir, - After seeing the article by the Revd Rachel Mann, may I
offer a possible insight from secular life into the apparent
reluctance of clergy to move from south to north?
In the 1970s, my then employers decided to move their R&D
establishment out of London to Wiltshire. The majority of our
predominantly male workforce transferred, not least because we were
descending the house-price gradient (I sold a two-bedroom flat in
London and bought a three-bedroom semi.)
In the 1990s, a different employer performed a similar exercise,
consolidating several R&D establishments into just one in the
Midlands. This proved a much more difficult project: although our
workforce was again predominantly male, many felt unable to move,
because it would have meant that their wives would have had to seek
new jobs. Even some of those who did move found themselves
commuting long distances (by Midlands standards), while their wives
commuted an equally long distance in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, a multinational company for which I also worked had
great difficulty moving its German employees between the Ruhrgebiet
and Bavaria, in either direction, for much the same reasons.
Nowadays, clergy, whether male or female, are much more likely
to have a spouse with a career of his or her own. If you have a
parish in Gravesend and your spouse has a job near London Victoria,
it may be no great hardship to move to Slough, while Croydon would
probably be beneficial; but moving out of commuting range of London
is much more problematic.
Moreover, for an incumbent who must be resident in his or her
parish, dividing the commuting load with a spouse by living halfway
between your different places of work is not an option.
187 High Road, Chilwell
Nottingham, NG9 5BA
From the Revd Brian Cranwell
Sir, - In my last parish, I had a semi-retired part-time
assistant priest who had served in the British Army during the
Second World War after being a refugee from Germany in the 1930s.
At the end of the war, he was accepted for training for ministry,
and went to Westcott House.
In his second year, the students received a visit from the
Archdeacon of Sheffield (in gaiters), whose purpose was to
encourage young ordinands to serve at least one curacy in the
industrial north. My colleague remembered his punchline: "You won't
find the Kingdom of God in Tunbridge Wells."
Having no experience of northern industrial cities, my colleague
came to Sheffield for his summer placement, then subsequently as a
curate on completion of training. He remained here until his death
in his late nineties.
Having little experience of the north myself (being brought up
in London), I came to Sheffield from abroad in the early 1970s to
attend a university management course.
After ordination a few years later, I had no wish to go anywhere
else. My elder brother, who lived in Chelsea, never failed to
comment during his visits on how much better a quality of life we
had here (and cheaper) than in London.
9 West View Close
Sheffield S17 3LT