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Last updated 6th February 2018

Vacancy process

It's just been announced that our vicar is moving on. What happens next? 

The diocesan vacancy process is as follows:

  • The PCC secretary will receive a Statement of Vacancy from the Diocesan Registry and a letter from the relevant Suffragan Bishop's Secretary outlining the process and providing links to relevant documentation
  • Within 4 weeks of receiving the notice, the PCC should hold a 'Section 11' meeting at which your outgoing priest (and partner) and the parish patron must NOT be present. This meeting is to
    • Discuss the process for preparing your parish profile
    • Appoint two lay members of the PCC to act as representatives of the PCC in connection with selecting the next priest (neither of whom have to be a Churchwarden)
    • Decide whether to request the parish patron(s) to advertise the vacancy
    • Decide whether to request a 'Section 12' meeting with the parish patron(s) and a Suffragan Bishop (the Archdeacon, Area Dean and Deanery Lay Chair may also attend)
    • Decide whether to review existing resolutions or consider passing a new resolution regarding the arrangements for parishes unable, on theological grounds, to accept the ministry of women as priests and bishops. 
  • Within 6 weeks, send the following to Bishop Julian, the parish patron(s), Diocesan Registry, Archdeacon, Area Dean, Deanery Lay Chair and the relevant Suffragan Bishop's secretary

Marilyn and Christine, churchwarden and Lay Reader from St John's Accrington, have provided a list of helpful suggestions for managing a parish during a vacancy:

  • Seek advice early on in the process from the Diocese (ie the Archdeacon or their PA and the Area Dean),
  • Appoint someone (Churchwarden/PCC representative) to organise clergy cover for the main services, baptisms, marriages etc. and draw up a Service Rota.
  • Retired clergy may be willing to take charge of organising marriage enquiries, banns etc. and also any funerals to be held at church.
  • Seek volunteers to join a baptism visitor team to take responsibility for all baptism inquiries.
  • Seek volunteers who may be willing to become Occasional Preachers or Worship Leaders, and meet with them regularly - see Informal Ministry webpage for more details
  • Be prepared to be flexible and to make changes when necessary. Eg A service may have to be changed at short notice if clergy or lay readers aren’t available.
  • Communicate with you worshipping community - pew sheet, emails, telephone, Facebook, so folk know what's going on
  • Prioritise and accept that some things may need to be delayed (not forgotten!) 
  • Try to maintain pastoral visiting and extended communion especially to those previously visited by the vicar.
  • Maintain links with the associated church school(s) - if you have one.
  • Try to keep in contact with those who stop coming regularly
  • Keep an eye on finances (this should be covered by the Treasurer and the PCC)
  • Try to be proactive with new initiatives, without overstretching resources, supported by prayer
  • Plan in advance, the church seasons appear to creep up on you much more quickly without a vicar, and then everything ends up last minute and stressful!
  • Churchwardens be prepared to receive a lot more inquiries in the absence of a vicar - they are all going to come your way!
  • You need a good team of people to cover all the necessities, don’t try to go it alone! Share laughter and happy times with the team, over a meal or coffee and cake
  • If the vicar was the chairman of the PCC, you will need to appoint a new chair or ask the vice chair to step up.
  • Parish Mission Returns will need to covered by the Churchwarden or appointee in the absence of the vicar.
  • Meet as a PCC, form a small subcommittee to look at and list all the requirements of the parish and delegate responsibilities.
  • Discuss and prepare your parish profile, including an up to date Mission/Vision Action Plan - the diocesan team can help you with this, you just need to ask.

Above all - pray for the needs of the parish, as an individual and collectively -  and be patient, God's timing might not fit with yours!