A Letter from your incumbent

Moving Forward

In previous articles for the parish Magazine I was privileged to be able to introduce myself, to explain the process of the joining together of the three parishes as we were waiting for Bishop Karen to inaugurate the Benefice of West Purbeck and I also looked at some of the teething problems that a new benefice can encounter when it initially gets going. This month, as things are progressing and questions naturally arise, I’d like to take the opportunity to keep you up to date with where we are at and to clarify some of the things that pertain to the structures of our benefice; a sub-title for this article would be ‘B is for Benefice’
It has been a very busy few months in church life with significant changes having taken place; namely the Benefice of West Purbeck has come into being and, as you know, I am the first incumbent of the benefice. So, the first thing to say about this is that because I am licensed as the incumbent we are not in vacancy, even though the plan is (see below) to appoint a new, additional, priest colleague later in the year. You may be familiar perhaps with the term ‘interregnum’ but this isn’t used any longer. The correct term now, if it applies, and in our case it doesn’t, is ‘vacancy.’ In simple terms what this means is that I, with the Church Wardens, have responsibility to ensure that things are in place for the orderly management of the parishes and church life therein across the whole benefice. My clergy colleagues in our team are all Associate Priests, in one case with P t O (Permission to Officiate) and we are also blessed to have four LLMs in the team to minister across the benefice with us. When the new priest is appointed he or she will also be an Associate Priest in the Benefice of West Purbeck and will minister across the benefice with the rest of the team. As it stands at the moment, the plan is to advertise for the post of Associate Priest in May and, God willing, to appoint for September. The Associate Priest will have pastoral responsibility for Bere Regis and Affpuddle but will also be a team player, working with colleagues cross benefice. The patterns of things, including mission and worship, will be planned cross benefice. In this way, although we will each have areas of responsibility and because of geography and location of housing some of us will be looked to more locally than others, no parish will really have their own ‘vicar’ (in fact there aren’t any vicars amongst us, simply a rector and associate priests) but rather a whole Ministry Team.    
Because we are not in vacancy we have to cover everything ourselves.  Whereas in a vacancy the fees for retaining the services of visiting clergy may be reclaimed from the diocese, we cannot do so. As we know, thankfully and joyfully, Rev. Jenny Alidina became a member of the team when the benefice was inaugurated which means that we can cover more Services ourselves. However, as our Associate Priest Rev. Jenny is with us in the benefice for 2 Sundays each month this means that there may be some gaps for Services to fill until our new colleague is appointed. With this is mind the Ministry Team have drawn up a pattern of Services across the benefice that we deem to be manageable in the interim period. In recognition of the fact that we are a member of clergy ‘short,’ we have managed to negotiate with the diocesan authorities to pay for cover for 2 Services per month across the benefice, to be deployed as determined by me, until our new colleague is with us. In the meantime, if there are any other Services that we cannot cover, for example if two of us are on leave at the same time, which may happen this year as most leave was booked before the benefice was established, we have to find people to cover and we pay any fees that may be incurred. The aim is, of course, to keep this to an absolute minimum but it will be necessary sometimes before our new colleague is in post.
In considering the Services pattern of the benefice and what is practically manageable for the Ministry Team, even with some cover, we have noted the legal requirement that there should be at least one Eucharistic service in a benefice on any Sunday and we have endeavoured to treat each parish fairly. On a very positive note, all of our parishes will have at least one Service each Sunday, although there may be an amendment to Service times, and there is a Eucharist in at least one of the churches each Sunday.  All three parishes will have three Sundays per month with 10am Services,  one Sunday each month with an 8am service and each church will have one non-eucharistic Service per month. On fifth Sundays, as they occur, we will hold one joint Benefice Family Communion Service in the different parishes on a rota basis. On the down side, we have had to reduce the total number of Services on Sundays each month as follows: Bere Regis x1 Service and Wool x2 Services. The isn’t necessarily permanent but the following will be the pattern of Services across the benefice from May through to at least September.
1st Sunday
Bere Regis 8am   Holy Communion
Affpuddle 10am  Holy Communion
Wool 10am  Holy Communion
Bere Regis 6pm Evensong
2nd Sunday
Bere Regis 10am Junior Church followed by 11am Family Service
Affpuddle  10am Mattins
Wool 8am   Holy Communion
Wool  10am  Holy Communion 
3rd Sunday
Affpuddle 8am  Holy Communion       
Bere Regis 10am  Holy Communion
Wool 10am  Family Service
Bere Regis 6pm  Evensong
4th Sunday
Affpuddle  10am  Holy Communion
Bere Regis 10am  Holy Communion
Wool 8am  Holy Communion
Wool 6pm  Healing Service
5th Sunday
Benefice Family Communion
In going forward we need careful planning if we are to flourish and grow. The very good news is that as a benefice we have become part of a ‘Thrive Learning Community.’ A group of 8 of us from across the three churches, together with teams from two other benefices in this part of the diocese, have committed to a two year course that includes 4 x 2 day sessions of intensive training in Blandford to help us to begin to work collaboratively on things that we identify as needs within our churches and communities.  We met for the first 2 day session in March and have identified our ‘burning issue’ as the need for us to intentionally work at growing together and working together as partners in the Benefice. We’re very excited at this work and I look forward to sharing more of it with you in due course. A prayer group has already been established as everything must be undergirded with prayer. The dates for this will be published and you are warmly invited to come along. In June we’ll be sending out a questionnaire asking about people’s hopes and dreams for the benefice, please look out for this and let us have your thoughts as this will shape the work of the church going forward. Later in the year we hope to feed the results of this back at a benefice away day; look out for the details and do sign up to come.
God has many adventures planned for us, some of which we’ve dreamed about but much of which is as yet unrevealed. Please pray for the Ministry Team, for the Thrive Team and for the appointment of a new colleague to join us in the coming months.
With every blessing
Rev Carol