Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Parish Ministry

One of the places where I used to visit as a Flying Bishop was Northwest Norfolk. There, a little group of parishes around Watlington had asked for the PEV's ministry, as had two other benefices in that little part of North West Norfolk. The Watlington group was in reality just two churches, in Runcton and Watlington, though the title of the Rector's post included Tottenhilll with Wormegay. A few miles away were three other parishes, Barton Bendish with Bechamwell and Shingham. Then in 2003 Fincham, Shouldham with Shouldham Thorpe and Marham were added to the Rectory of Barton Bendish. Today in what the Daily Telegraph inelegantly calls "Appointments in the Clergy" it seems these two collections of parishes have been lumped together. Barbara Burton is priest in charge now, we read, of Barton Bendish w Beachamwell and Shingham, and Marham, and Shouldham, and Wereham and Watlington, South Runcton, Runcton Holme w Watlington, South Runcton and Runcton Holme with Wallington and Thorpland and Tottenham w Wormegay. All this chunk of Norfolk is in the Diocese of Ely. And lest the Revd Ms Burton should feel underemployed she is also Rural Dean of Fincham and Feltwell.

Now certainly these are small places, though many living in them will remember when there used to be at least three incumbents living in and caring for those parishes. With the decline in numbers of clergy (decline which women's ordination was supposed to reverse but did not) it becomes increasingly difficult for the Church of England to claim that it has the cure of souls of every person in the land.

St Edmund Downham Market in the deanery of Fincham & Feltwell

Downham Market was one of my larger concerns back in those days. It belongs still to the Society of SS Hilda and Wilfred. Not sure if Hilgay and Southery, also in that deanery, are in the care of the present Bishop of Richborough - I doubt it since they call themselves 'liberal catholic' on their website. They are working with the Grimshoe Benefice (five churches) so perhaps more amalgamations are on the way. At least the Catholic Church does not have such a problem of so many ancient buildings in small communities. It is also capable of taking drastic action if a parish no longer viable because of having too few worshippers. All of us, Catholics and Anglicans, have a great responsibility to pray for and foster new vocations. The harvest is still plentiful, the labourers ever fewer. Pray therefore the Lord of the Harvest that he will send labourers into his harvest - and pray that the leaders of the churches will be given the wisdom to continue ministry to the whole nation and not just the bits that can afford it.

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