Within a year of becoming Rector of Saint Giles in 2003, I was asked to take responsibility also for the parish of Dethick, Lea and Holloway. This was partly due to the shortage of finance in the diocese but also due to the shortage of priests. It meant that both parishes had to get used to having less pastoral care and also we had to work out a realistic rota of services that could be maintained by just one priest.
This last year, our Area Dean the Reverend Duncan Ballard, visited both our Parochial Church Councils to speak with us about renewed difficulties with regard to the deployment of clergy. Due to the fact that over the next five years a considerable number of clergy are due to retire, there will be a lot fewer priests available.
Although there has been a upturn in vocations in recent years, it will be a long time before the decline in clergy numbers is reversed.
This will mean that the Deanery of Carsington, in which our United Benefice is located, will probably only have six stipendiary priests, two in the Ashbourne area, two in the Wirksworth team, and two in Matlock. Matlock, Matlock Bank, Matlock Bath, and Darley Dale at the moment have four stipendiary clergy between them.
I hope that it may be possible for me to stay here for one or two more years. But in due course we will all have to get used to there being less priests. So the PCCs and myself will have to work out over the next year or so what is a realistic rota of services in the United Benefice. For example, Dethick and Holloway churches have normally just one service between them each Sunday but Saint Giles has three services most Sundays. This isn’t sustainable in the long term. We need to examine carefully which services we could drop.
Also, a priest is there primarily to lead the congregation in worship and to do pastoral work. Sometimes, our time is taken up more than it should be in administrative duties. We must examine what can be done to lighten the burden of administrative work. These are tasks which the Rector, the PCCs and the congregation must carefully face over the coming months.