A QUILT OF MEANING: THE CHANGING COMPLEXITY OF THE VOCATIONAL TRAINING OF CHURCH OF ENGLAND CLERGY
Canterbury Christ Church University (UNITED KINGDOM)
Bricolage employs multiple methodologies as well as multiple paradigms. A bricolage assessment of the complexity of education and faith suggests that a more complex vocational training experience based on an assistantship training model with multiple coaches as a new innovative approach will better equip priests for the demands of the role they will inhabit.
This paper is based upon on-going doctoral research regarding the training and formation of clergy for ordained ministry in the Church of England which is known as curacy. Church of England clergy have been defined as part of the first professionals in English society together with lawyers and physicians. Such a profession involves the sense of calling encapsulated by the word vocation and means that work is an end in itself and not merely a means to an end. Vocation in ordained ministry is understood as a calling to a role.
However, this role is now extremely complex. Nationally vocations are dropping and by 2022 40% of all clergy will be retired. The recruitment of new priest is too low to make any significant change to this trend. There are fewer clergy to go around resulting in an increase of tasks upon them in their role. Many priests now have multi-parish benefices which mean they have more than one church to lead. The consequence, in many cases, is that the priest needs to attend double or triple the amount of meetings such as a PCC (Parochial Church Council), than what they would have done in the old one church, one priest model. Curates negotiate and will negotiate many different roles. For many, they navigate previous held career roles and new forming roles as ordained priests. Many too as a result of a shrinking pool will hold dual roles as a priest. Most would need to negotiate their public role in society as a Church of England priest because the Church of England is the state church and the role is therefore a public office. With fewer clergy nationally, avoiding burnout of the few, there has to be a fundamental change in the function and role of clergy and as a result a fundamental change in the vocational training that prepares them for that role.