20 June 2011

Retired clergy - what do you think?

Sheringham is a retirement town of some note. Lots of people come here for family holidays for years, and when they get to retirement age, they decide to make the North Norfolk coast their home. This also means that the local churches have more retired clergy than the national average. At St Peter's there are two in the ministry team, and others who simply attend services.

Retired clergy are a gift in many ways, but their presence in parishes is not always positive. For one of my pastoral portfolio* pieces I am thinking of concentrating on retired clergy, and I wondered what you wonderful folk might think about the subject. I have lots of my own ideas, but would be interested to hear other viewpoints.

I'm interested in all perspectives on this matter, so feel free to chip in to the comments below with any of your thoughts, positive or negative, about retired clergy and their role in the church. I'd also be interested in any non C of E angles too.

*the pastoral portfolio is a double unit that all Westcott students have to take, and it includes 3 pieces of work based on one's pastoral experiences during training.


  1. Useful as fill ins during interregnums? That's really the only experience I've had of them. Doesn't really give them the opportunity to get involvednin church life though. We do have a retired vicar as a normal congregant at our church, he keeps a fairly low profile as he probably doesn't want to upstage our vicar!

    Mrs Joe Bloggs Anglican

  2. Simon Heron ( Rev!)21 June 2011 at 22:22

    I imagine it would be difficult if the priest in a parish retired in the same parish. Otherwise my (admittedly very limited) experience is good.

  3. Paul Stanaway

    I think they should be retired. If they want to do stuff that's great and can be discussed with the vestry i.e. talks, pastoral care, mentoring etc They may just want to chill and do different stuff. They are still members of a church though so all the responsibilities of being a Christian are still present.

  4. In some jurisdictions, like the CofE, retired clergy are "required" to move out of their former parishes. I doubt know what would happen in practice if one bought a bungalow opposite the church and dug in - I guess they would be refused Permission to Officiate, which would make it a little harder for them to continue to meddle in their old church?

    The retired priest I know best became attached to a church he had originally visited by chance - it wasn't in his old diocese or his retirement town, but was an easy commute from his new home. He was a lovely prayerful learned guy and by mutual agreement soon did far more than just the occasional service when the rector was on holiday. In return he had some pastoral and practical support when he became a bit frail. So when it works, it can really work well.

  5. I'm only anonymous because I haven't worked out how not to be - maybe call me numpty....

    We have 3 retired clergy in our congregation.
    One was ordained as an NSM and only ever ministered in our parish. When he retired someone (rather nastily) said - how can you tell? However, he is a focus for people who grumble about the Incumbent, about being too catholic and about incense.
    The two others are active and will preach/ preside, often at the midweek eucharists, and they are very useful and highly valued by the clergy and laity.
    None of them do much pastoral work within the Parish (unless fostering discontent counts as pastoral work?)

  6. In the RC church priests don't seem to retire. They just get moved on to smaller churches until they get moved into a old priests home.