Wykeham Benefice in an interregnum

After our sad farewell to Ronald and Liz on Sunday 19 January, there will inevitably be concern among some parishioners as to how we should keep things going in the Benefice over the coming months. We have become used to having three members of the clergy to cover our six churches, a generous allocation compared to many other benefices around us, but we now go down to just one – me - and I am only available part-time, because as many of you will know I still work part-time in London during the week. But we should look on this period as an opportunity to develop talents that many did not realise that they had, as well as to consider how we want the Benefice to be led in the future. It means many months when no-one can say ‘Let’s check with Ronald’ because he will be many miles away in Yorkshire and will probably no longer have the answer anyway. I will always be in contact by email or text in case of real difficulty, but for many questions and issues the knowledge and decisions will rest with churchwardens.

The Church of England is a firm supporter of what is called ‘The priesthood of all believers’ which reminds us that many of the things that have traditionally been done by priests can in fact be done by those who are not ordained. The phrase comes from the words of the apostle St Peter in

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people
(1 Peter 2:9)

Lay people are allowed to do many of the tasks that we call ‘pastoral’ - they can visit parishioners who are unwell, suffering or lonely, and often more importantly can be a local point of contact with the church; in addition they can preside at non-eucharistic services, they can lead bible study groups, lead prayers and teach their neighbours about what it means to be a Christian, and of course they can chair PCC meetings. Above all, they can take initiatives when required.

Over the next few months, each church is likely to have at least one lay led service every month. I hope that several congregation members will participate in these and will discover skills that have lain dormant. Please ask me for advice on how to lead worship if you wish, though many of you have been attending services for at least as long as I have and will have lots of experience of worship which works and that which doesn’t work.

It is impossible to know how long the interregnum will last for. Technically it does not start until Ronald’s formal retirement date of 31st January: the last 12 days of January were unused holiday allowance for him. The first step is for us to hold a ‘Section 11’ meeting of all PCCs – hopefully during February – which will appoint parish representatives from each parish to participate in the selection process, as well as discussing who we might be looking for. Churchwardens will already have met before that to start the process of developing a ‘Benefice profile’ – the description of the Benefice to be sent to prospective candidates for Rector. The next step is for a ‘Section 12’ meeting to be held with the Archdeacon and Patrons of the Benefice (Lord Saye and Sele, New College Oxford and Worcester College Oxford) to develop the advertisement which will hopefully be placed in the Church Times and on various websites in late March.

At that stage we are dependent on responses to the advertisement: sometimes it is necessary to advertise several times to find suitable candidates. But if there is a good response, it might be possible to interview a shortlist in May. If parish representatives can agree on the candidate, then after checks and notice period we might have a new Rector in September. But it could take several months longer if suitable candidates do not apply. Thankfully because of the number of retired clergy who live locally, I have been able to book clergy for all of the services which need to be led by clergy until the end of June, and I will start booking clergy for the months after that in March. I am very grateful to so many retired clergy who have agreed to help us out.

I hope that by this time in 2021, even if delays happen, it will be a new Rector who writes the lead piece of Wykeham Benefice News!

John Tattersall
Mobile number: 07711 733 978

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John Tattersall