A vacancy is the time between one incumbent leaving and the next starting.
Vacancies are an integral part of the life of all parish churches.
They can be a time for opportunity and growth, but may also be a time of anxiety and difficulty.
These FAQs are for parishes approaching or embarking upon a vacancy and are intended for those who have particular responsibilities during vacancies, including PCC members and churchwardens.
During a vacancy the area dean and churchwardens legally become ‘sequestrators’, i.e. the bishop’s officers in the parish.
The area dean will be the first point of contact for churchwardens and others seeking advice and support in the day-to-day running of the parish.
The wardens with the PCC will need to decide whether the wardens, ministry team or standing committee are the core working group for overseeing the life of the parish during the vacancy.
Other licensed and authorised ministers and those with leadership roles in the church also have a part to play in the practical aspects of church life.
It will be important to publicise the list of who is going to look after (not singlehandedly running) different areas of church life – enquiries about baptism, pastoral visiting, home/study groups, church rotas etc.
A vacancy is not just a period of ‘marking time’ but may be a time of creative discovery and for enjoying the benefits of co-operative ministry within the church and with neighbouring parishes.
You area dean and archdeacon can help you with this.
Please also see the Vacancy Process flowchart.
How long will we have to wait before we get a new vicar? +This is going to vary considerably from one vacancy to another, but it is best to plan on an absolute minimum of a year. This is because, due to the pandemic, there are a high number of vacancies awaiting recruitment. Even when a successful candidate has been found, they will have to give three months' notice in their current diocese. It is also worth bearing in mind that the drop in common fund payments has meant that it is not always possible to recruit on a ‘like-for-like’ basis. Thoughts and possibilities will be discussed with you at the initial vacancy meeting, but thinking creatively is the name of the game.
How do I cover church services whilst we have no vicar? +
Please bear with us, we are looking at how we can produce lists of people you can approach for cover without contravening GDPR guidelines. However, you can always ask your archdeacon and the bishops if they have any capacity to help out with a service or two. Your deanery administrator may also know of likely people for you to approach.
Is there anything I can read to help us out in the meantime? +
Here is a very useful publication which is readily available – So the Vicar's Leaving: The Good Interregnum Guide: Amazon.co.uk: Alexander, Mike, Martineau, Jeremy, Wood, Ron: 9781853115059: Books
We are undertaking some building work - what permissions do we need? +
Nigel Sherratt and Kat Alldread in the DAC office are always happy to help and advise:
Nigel Sherratt: email@example.com
Kat Alldread: firstname.lastname@example.org
For help finding a reputable tradesperson, see: nationalchurchestrust.org/Maintenancebooker
To discuss the possibility of a grant to help with your work: Gareth Greenwood: Gareth.Greenwood@derby.anglican.org
We have a query relating to a churchyard / marriage / death is there a guide available on this? +
What process will we need to follow to fill our vacancy? +To give you an idea of the process and steps to follow in recruiting a new incumbent, please see here.. They will be small variances depending on local circumstances.
Who gets involved with advertising and recruiting a new vicar? +Your parish(es) will nominate either one or two representatives who will form a panel, together with the local area dean, archdeacon and patrons, if appropriate. If you are in a larger, multi-parish benefice, the number involved from each church would usually be tailored to ensure proportional representation. Together, this panel will make decisions relating to how to advertise and interview and will be involved on the interview day itself. The bishop will also wish to see the application forms relating to any possible candidates, and will have an informal chat with your preferred candidate prior to an offer letter being issued.
What documents will be required to advertise? +
The benefice/parish(es) concerned will work together to create a profile and advert, whilst the area dean and archdeacon will work on job and role descriptions, plus source a letter from the Bishop to include for potential applicants. Cathy in the archdeacons’ office has lots of examples of all of these, plus interview question templates, so please contact her if you wish to have some emailed across to you (email@example.com ).
Where should we advertise? +
It is down to the parishes, but the choices are:
- Diocesan website (free of charge)
- Church Times (Approx £1000 to advertise ‘until filled) in a succinct advert in both paper and on their website
- Pathways (Church of England recruitment tool). Approximately £80
- Networks such as New Wine
- Patronage websites, e.g. the CPAS one.
What happens at the interview? +
It is common to have both a formal interview (which will usually include a 10-minute presentation) before the formal panel, plus an opportunity for the candidate(s) to visit the parishes, possibly have lunch with people from the wider church or local school communities, and also be able to have a viewing of the vicarage. This process can be done over a day, two days, or sometimes more.
Who do I ask for help if we don’t know the answer to something? +
If you are stuck for an answer, please do shout up to your local area dean or archdeacon and they will do their best to help.
What is ‘pastoral reorganisation’ and how does that affect our vacancy? +
The term ‘pastoral reorganisation’ refers to the processes that occur when there are proposals which require legal changes, such as re-drawing of parish boundaries, a change to which property to use as the vicarage or the re-configuration of parishes to modify the benefice structure.
I have received a letter referring to ‘suspension of presentation’. What does that mean? +
Suspension of presentation is the temporary removal of a patron's right to present an incumbent to a benefice. Where churches have patrons, whether parishes are ‘in suspension’ or not, we would usually involve them in the process anyway, as a matter of courtesy. The bishop will remain responsible for the cure of souls which she/he will normally exercise by licensing a priest-in-charge.
Who pays the advertising and interview costs? +This is usually split (fairly) between the parishes concerned. Anticipated costs which may be incurred:
- For interviews, the parish would usually offer to pay reasonable travel and accommodation expenses.
How many applications should we expect to get? +
At the moment, we are looking at anything from six down to zero. Confidence for a move is still fairly low, although we are hoping things will gradually improve as and when we return to ‘normal’.