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Commission on Ministry Focuses on Burdens on Clergy and Developments in Ministry

Commission on Ministry Focuses on Burdens on Clergy and Developments in Ministry

The activities and deliberations of the Commission on Ministry were brought to the attention of General Synod this afternoon (Friday May 12).

The Report of the Commission was proposed by the Revd Emma Carson who thanked all who had supported the work of the commission.

She said that the easing of restrictions and the end of the pandemic had allowed in person gatherings to resume which had seen the holding of the 2022 Advent Retreat and Vocations Retreat, both of which had been very positive experiences.

Turning to issues of compliance and administration, Ms Carson said that the commission was concerned about the pressures of compliance. The said that the commission had recommended that the RCB and local dioceses make provision for these challenges through the employment of a central compliance officer and diocesan compliance officers, either on a paid or voluntary capacity. The commission also believes that parishes in the Republic of Ireland should be made aware of the possibility of contacting the Charities Regulator or hiring private companies to help parishes to ensure they are following compliance regulations appropriately.

Ms Carson said the commission had spent time reflecting on the benefits of clergy sabbaticals for the purpose of professional development and spiritual and emotional refreshment. The commission felt that clergy could benefit from sabbatical leave and had recommended that diocesan sabbatical policies should be put in place.

Turning to clergy tenure, Ms Carson said the commission had made a number of recommendations to the proposed Select Committee to Review Clergy Tenure, reflected in Motion 9. Furthermore there would be a motion dealing with the tenure of Archdeacons.

She commended the work of the Pioneer Ministry leadership team led by the Revd Rob Jones.

Seconding the report Dean Nigel Crossey (Kilmore) outlined a scoping exercise carried out by the commission seeking to explore their priorities.

He said that a number of different approaches to the exercise of ministry were being developed including part time stipendiary ministry, shared ministry, lay pastors, lay readers, Ordained Local Ministry and Pioneer Ministry.

He said that there were a number of pressures on clergy and packages to support clergy wellbeing were welcome. He encouraged each diocese to have a policy on sabbatical leave and annual retreats as well as mid–career courses, and continual professional development.

In debate on the report, Archdeacon David Huss (Raphoe) spoke about the burden placed on Archdeacons. He wondered if the Church was getting away from the Constitutional understanding of Archdeacons and beginning to think of Archdeacons as a layer of middle management in a corporation.

The Revd Patrick Bamber (Elphin) spoke of his first sabbatical experience which he said was a very beneficial time that should be promoted.

The Revd Nicola Halford (Cashel Ferns and Ossory) spoke about Ordained Local Ministry and the small amount of people who have trained for OLM but now wish to serve in a more full time capacity. She spoke of the difficulty in crossing over from OLM which involves serving in OLM for five years before undertaking the MTh and asked why people must wait for five years.

Gillian Purser (Cashel Ferns and Ossory) spoke about vocations and asked how many people in the Church of Ireland were denied in pursuing their vocations because of the level of scholarship involved in having to have a Master of Theology. She said there were people who would make fantastic clergy but who did have academic ability to obtain a Masters degree. She said she did not see the sense, right or justice in it.

Wilfred Baker (Cork Cloyne and Ross) asked what had happened to the auxiliary ministry and why there were so few coming through.

Joan Bruton (Meath and Kildare) spoke of the aging clergy population which she said was a wake–up call and asked if the Church was encouraging vocations and allowing people a variety of vocations as one size did not fit all.

Joc Sanders (Tuam Limerick and Killaloe) spoke about rural ministry and the question of team ministry. He said being an incumbent in a rural group or union of parishes with a handful of churches was an impossible job. He said many incumbents had become ill or suffered mental ill health and had to retire. He felt that team ministry would be part of the solution to these problems. He said for this to happen, ordained ministers needed to be able to work as part of a team.

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