CHRISTCHURCH DEANERY REVIEW OF STIPENDIARY MINISTRY
Copy of an insertion into Partners this week.
We wanted to let you know about some proposals which may affect us as The Avon Valley Partnership.
The Deanery of Christchurch, led by Gary as Area Dean and Mark Ward as Lay Chair of Synod and Chair of the Deanery Mission and Pastoral Committee, has been looking at how we allocate the 11 stipendiary priests we have in the Deanery (the Deanery stretches from Breamore and Hale in the North, through Ringwood, Burley and Bransgore, to the coast from Christchurch to New Milton).
- We’ve discovered a wide variety in the size of populations of parishes and worshipping communities served by our clergy.
- For example, one Parish has 1,900 people and 3 churches, with one priest; another has over 25,000 people, also with 3 churches, but still with one priest.
- The 11 posts seem to be distributed more for historical reasons, rather than based on need.
- We’ve also discovered that the smaller rural parishes, such as ours, have a higher staffing ratio than the larger urban parishes, especially along the coast from Christchurch to New Milton.
- And also that there are fewer clergy resources in the areas of the Deanery where deprivation levels are highest – which also tend to be in the coastal parishes.
So, the Deanery Standing Committee, after consultation with Deanery Synod and others, including at diocesan level, is proposing that, as a start to redressing some of these imbalances, we move one stipendiary post from the North of the Deanery to the South.
- That means a rearrangement of the care of the Northern Parishes of The Avon Valley Partnership (Breamore, Fordingbridge, Hale & Woodgreen), Hyde with Ellingham and Harbridge, Ringwood and St Leonard’s & St Ive’s.
- And there is an added urgency in that we have two unexpected retirements of the Priests-in-Charge of Ringwood and St Leonard’s & St Ive’s; we need to move quickly so that we can start to fill the vacant posts, and not keep these Parishes in limbo for too long.
Christ was always concerned for those on the margins – for the poor, the outcast, the excluded. We feel that as a Deanery we can better express that concern in our own day by making sure that the more challenging and more populous areas of the Deanery are at least as well served by the Church as the more comfortable areas. That is why we are proposing these changes.
In the past two weeks, Mark and/or I have attended meetings of churchwardens and clergy of the affected Parishes, PCCs of all the Parishes (except Breamore, which is in August), and had lots of other meetings and discussions.
Fordingbridge PCC (formally) and Hale & Woodgreen PCC (informally) have offered their support for the proposals; the others are meeting again in August/September to consider their responses.
Having considered many different suggestions, ranging from leaving everything as it is now, to all sorts of other realignments, the proposal from the Deanery Standing Committee is this:
- The Parish of Hyde with Ellingham and Harbridge will be split.
- The Parish of Hyde would join the Avon Valley Partnership as a separate Parish – so this Benefice would have four Parishes, rather than three (unless any of our current Parishes decided that they would like to join with another!).
- We would have 7 Churches, 1 stipendiary post (The Rector), who would live in Fordingbridge. The population would be about 9,400.
- The Churches of Ellingham and Harbridge would join the Parish of Ringwood, which would be part of the Benefice of Ringwood and St Leonard’s & St Ive’s.
- They would have 6 Churches and 2 stipendiary posts (The Vicar and The Associate Priest); one would live in Ringwood and the other in St Leonard’s & St Ive’s. The population would be about 21,800.
There will be challenges for all of us with this new arrangement; but, especially in the Avon Valley Partnership, we are used to facing these sorts of changes over the years, and I’m sure that we have the ordained and lay resources to be able to cope – even if we have to make some alterations.
And the Parish of Hyde would also bring many benefits to the Partnership – we already share a lot with them, including our Church Office, and it is a very lively and outward-looking Parish, with strong leadership.
With prayer and good will on both parts, I’m sure we can make it work.
If you would like to know more, or want to discuss any aspects of this, do contact either Mark or myself, and we’ll be happy to explain further.
Gary, July 29th, 2016