Posted by Hugh 27 October 2019
I’ve just written to various friends about my decision to quit formal, licensed ministry as a non-stipendiary (i.e. unpaid) priest in the Church of England. In that letter/email I gave a link to this page for those interested in finding out a little more about this ‘minister in secular employment’/worker-priest thing. It’s a minority interest, but it has been – and is – important to me, and it should be of greater importance to the church at large.
The reason for quitting licensed ministry attached to a parish now, in this 30th year of my ordination, is because I expect to cease paid work (the retirement word is so misleading) within the next two to three years. I concluded a long time ago that because my vocation arose within the context of my paid work (I have tried to follow the model of the worker-priest), then once I stop that, it will be the time to quit as an active priest licensed to a parish. To my mind there is a logic to this, and far more importantly, a faithfulness to my vocation as I have understood it all these years. I'm not renouncing my orders or ceasing to be a priest.
The reason for this step now, and ahead of my anticipated post-work liberation (that ‘R’ word again), is that to finish both full time paid work and my active work as a priest in a parish at the same time would be more of a major change than I want, or need, to experience. Both spheres have been important ones to me, and, crucially, they have been spheres in dialogue with one another. Quitting each will, I’m fairly certain, involve some sense of loss (as well as, I hope, opening up new possibilities I can’t yet glimpse).
Here, then, for those who are interested, is as concise a description of the case for priests with a focus on secular jobs beyond the institution of the church as I can manage (and a link to further material):
I maintain a website for clergy who understand their vocation to be focused on ordinary work and jobs, and for those considering it, or simply interested in it: see it here