Sunday, 11 April 2010

A Faithful Ministry

For almost four years three other retired priests and I cooperated in keeping worship going at Holy Trinity Winchester. No sooner is that post filled than another of the four 'Richborough' parishes in the diocese falls vacant. This time it is St Francis' Bournemouth, and the departure of Fr Paul Berrett will be a great loss. He has served for twenty seven years as parish priest there, and his final Mass on Low Sunday was a bitter-sweet occasion.

The Diocese, in their wisdom, have decided that this parish merits a 0.7 post. I have yet to find 0.7 of a catholic priest; and for a parish like St Francis' the idea is preposterous. They have (and have had since the consecration of their church eighty years ago) a daily Mass. Fr Paul has been one of the hardest-working priests in the diocese of Winchester, greatly used as a confessor and spiritual director. Indeed, even the diocese had to admit there were few like him, and four years ago he was created an Honorary Canon of the Cathedral - the sole representative of the traditionalist constituency to be so honoured. Other parishes might make do with a 70% priest; indeed from what I observe many do already (though such men are often paid a full stipend). But Fr Paul has been at the Church's bidding not just for an forty hour week, but something more like eighty.

The churchwardens spoke affectionately of all he has done for them. The Scouts and Cubscouts were there in force to bid him farewell. The place was packed; so much so that Fr Paul said if he had known it would bring people to church he would have retired more often.
Fr Brian Copus (on the left of the photo below, with Fr Paul's wife June on the other side) is a retired priest who will assist during the interregnum; as I shall too, beginning with an evening Mass and Marriage Preparation meeting on Wednesday, and continuing next Sunday at the Parish Mass. At least the round trip is only thirty-odd miles, not the sixty involved in the Winchester interregnum.

I seem to recall that dioceses assess quota on a formula relating to the cost of a parish priest. St Francis have been paying their very large assessment to the Diocese without fail. Now how would it be if they were to pay 70% of this in future? The balance would enable them to make up their part-time priest's stipend to that of a full-time incumbent, pay something to ensure he has a full pension in due time, and still come away with some change. I do hope the diocese will feel able to comment on such a simple and equable solution.
[Photos courtesy of Nick Hillman, blogmaster at St Francis']


  1. The Diocese of Lichfield did the same to All Saints, Shrewsbury, when I left in 2007. A daily Mass parish for a century now warrants a 0.5 priest. Perhaps it is no coincidence that it is the only ABC Ebbsfleet parish in the Archdeaconry.

    A neighbouring parish of similar size is now vacant. It has two services on a Sunday morning - total attendance 45 - and one mid-week Eucharist. Guess what - a full-time post!

  2. And now I learn I was mistaken; Winchester too are turning this great parish into a 0.5 post. Take out a 0.5 day off, and you are left with three days of priestly ministry! Perhaps it could be joined with a Diocesan Adviser in.... post, since none of those seem to require any special skills or aptitude. I am told there might be a vacancy for the Adviser in under-water basket weaving.

  3. And you'll all be picked-off one by one. I remember the smarmy heretic Richard Harries ("Bishop" of Oxford and Radio 4 Thought for the Day groupie) oozing care and consideration when he casually remarked to some of his "catholic" clergy in 1994 (Ordination of women, Round 1): we'll be nice to you for the first 5 years; then foe the next 5 we'll be nasty to you...and after that, you won't matter". +Edwin is now in his pro-Roman phase (a very recent mutation - when I knew him he was very anti anything Roman Catholic). But nevertheless, the bad tempered old git is now showing something approaching leadership. The game's up. The Barque of Peter is floating by. GET ON IT NOW>

  4. David, what you say about the doings of the anglican hierarchy is right. During vacancies, I have known them send in an archdeacon to brow beat the PCC into recinding resolutions. On one occasion, the archd. even told the churchwardens to leave the room which they refused to do.
    I strongly disagree with what you say about Bishop Edwin. I have known him since the 1970s and he is a kind and wise pastor. I had hime give Lent talks when I was a school chaplian in Berkshire. He was excellent.