This Week: When Clergy Leave

In his Annual Report, our priest, Brian Pearson, announced his intention to retire on March 1, 2019. We are planning opportunities to say goodbye closer to the time; but meanwhile, people are asking how the parish prepares for the appointment of a new priest after Brian has gone.

The rules (called “canons”) governing the Anglican Diocese of Calgary describe the process this way: If the office of Incumbent becomes vacant, the Bishop shall consult with the Parish Council prior to appointing and licensing a new Incumbent. (Canon 8.3)

In practice, this means that, with the concurrence of Parish Council, the Churchwardens appoint a search committee, traditionally called a Parochial Committee, its membership representing a cross section of active church members. The Committee’s first task is to create a Parish Profile. This important document conveys the history and character of the parish, its sense of call in terms of ministry and mission, and the specific leadership qualities being sought in a new priest.

The Diocese then advertises the vacancy—locally, nationally, or even internationally—and the Parish Profile is made available to any clergy who express an interest in applying. Applications are made through the Bishop’s office, which then passes along the names of suitable candidates for the Parochial Committee to interview. If, in the view of the Committee, none of the candidates is suitable, a new list can be requested. When the Committee has found a suitable match, it asks the Bishop to appoint that person as the new Incumbent.

When a parish priest retires, especially if the incumbency has been a long one, church members are understandably anxious about what happens next. Last week we described the process whereby a new Incumbent is selected and appointed. This week we look at the timeline of that process.

Our present Incumbent, Brian Pearson, will retire on March 1, 2019. Over the next few months, with the concurrence of our Parish Council, our Churchwardens will appoint a search committee, called a Parochial Committee, to assist with the process. Their first task, going into the fall, will be to create a document called a Parish Profile that describes the congregation’s history and character. This will be made available to any clergy interested in applying.

After Brian has left, the vacancy will be advertised through the Bishop’s office, and applications received. In the interim the Bishop will make provision for clergy leadership and support. Usually this means that an interim priest is appointed by the Bishop to ensure continuity of worship, pastoral care, and administrative support. Every effort is made to honour the customs and practices of the parish, and not to introduce changes. We will be fortunate to have our deacon, Charmaine Evans, on hand to provide ongoing pastoral care and coordination of our programs.

The interim period between Brian’s departure and the appointment of a new Incumbent could reasonably  be expected to last six to nine months, that is, until September or December, 2019—long enough to prepare for our next chapter.


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