Interregnum Update - Suspension of Presentation
The Bishop of Kensington has taken the decision to formally announce a "suspension of presentation" to our parish. The formal announcement can be found in the Bishop’s letter attached here.
In essence the phrase "suspension of presentation" means that the Diocese will be providing us with an interim priest for a period of up to three years to help us renew and reinvigorate our parish. This is different from the usual process, when we would advertise and then choose a new vicar ourselves by competitive interview. According to the Archdeacon, every parish in the Kensington deanery has been through this process at one time or another. It is nothing to be alarmed about.
The decision to follow this path during the interregnum has been discussed at length with the Archdeacon and by the PCC. The PCC voted to support this process at its last meeting on July 1st.
There are several reasons why we think that this approach will work to the advantage of the parish.
There is no doubt that the decision to "suspend presentation" is in part due to the toll that Grenfell took on the parish and especially the clergy team who were left exhausted. That was bound to happen after such a devastating event, but it resulted in a sense of drift and lack of strategic direction in the parish, something that is especially troubling given the complex needs of our community post-Grenfell.
Unlike our last interregnum, when we had both Keith and Mary to look after us as we searched for a new vicar, we have no priests at all. Given the nature of our parish, with its two churches, complex needs and congregations that are currently not growing, the PCC took the view that we need to halt that sense of drift as fast as possible. Suspension of presentation offers the quickest route to a solution.
Under suspension of presentation, an interim is likely to be appointed within weeks, whereas finding a new incumbent by the normal route is a process that takes at least 9 months, if not more. We do not think it would be wise for the parish to be leaderless that long.
The interim will be an experienced and skilled priest, whose key task will be to to help us define our mission to our community and identify a dynamic and coherent way forward. At the moment we are existing very much day-to-day. We have cover for almost all services, but no one on the PCC has the "head space" to do the strategic thinking and planning that will enable our parish to find the best way forward. The interim's tasks will include such issues as: how do we get closer to our community? How do we grow our congregations? How can we put the parish's finances on a more robust footing? What should be in our Mission Action Plan - our five-year plan to reach out to our community? All of these are complex issues that require dedicated time, thought and building relationships with different groups within our community. They are not tasks that can be carried out by ad hoc priests who appear a Sunday at a time or by part-time PCC members.
Critically, while the interim is chosen by the Bishop, we get a say in who this person is and can meet and interview them. We have made it clear that any new "priest-in-charge", as the interim will be called - not "vicar" which is reserved for a permanent appointment - will have to be acceptable to the PCC in terms of their support for the key values of our parish, such as it its emphasis on inclusivity and the different worship tradition and styles of our two churches. If they are not acceptable, we can refuse to take the Bishop's candidate.
The priest-in-charge will come in on a fixed contract and will leave after 3 years unless, by mutual consent, we and they want them to stay and become our vicar. If they move on, we should by then be in a stronger position to find a new incumbent vicar.
For most of us, this should make absolutely no difference to our experience of going to church. It will be like having a permanent vicar, someone who can be a consistent "face" for our parish to any newcomers and visitors.
It is important to stress that at the moment we do not know who the interim is likely to be, but we should know at the start of the autumn.
If you have any questions or worries, please either consult your churchwardens (Freddie Venn and Barney Palfrey at St Clement, Tim Lee and Mark Cazalet at St James) or email Matthew Barrett (PCC Chair)via the Parish Office..