Rector’s News

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Rector’s News2018-10-03T08:37:44+00:00

  Parish News October 2018


The Rural Dean Reflects


When Nigel resigned the living of Crediton, Sandford with Upton Hellions and Shobrooke, the post of Rural Dean of Cadbury also fell vacant. The role of Rural Dean is normally discharged by one of the incumbents in a deanery over and above their parochial responsibilities. According to the Diocesan Handbook for Rural Deans the job includes:

– helping the Bishop in his/her episcope (ie oversight) and care of the Deanery, including the support and pastoral care of clergy and lay leaders in the parishes;

– working collaboratively with colleagues to promote the mission and ministry of the parishes in the Deanery;

– convening Deanery Chapter (the beneficed and licensed clergy and licensed Readers of the Deanery with representatives of the retired clergy with ‘Permission to Officiate’ – ‘PtO’ – and the Lay Chairman of the Deanery Synod) and co-chairing Deanery Synod, and encouraging them to be joyfully rooted in prayer and theological reflection, in discipleship and service, in mission and outreach;

– assisting the Archdeacon in key tasks, including parish visitations (for example midway between Quinquenniel Inspections to assess progress in meeting the requirements identified by the inspecting architect to maintain the building, and to examine registers) and supporting parishes during vacancies.

The Cadbury Deanery consists of four benefices/mission communities, encompassing twenty eight parishes with a total of thirty seven churches. ‘Staffing’ amounts to four incumbents, when there are no vacancies (Katie Cross at Nether Exe, Kingsley Cross at North Creedy East, and Lindsey Starrs at North Creedy West, with a vacancy here), and currently part-time associate priests at Nether Exe (Sue Sheppard who works at SWMTC training ordinands) and Crediton (Paul, who is Deanery Training Officer) and, of course, our assistant curate Helen (‘serving her title’ in the Crediton benefice). There are also two licensed Readers – Carol and Sandra (and a very active one with ‘PtO’ – Jack – who is also Lay Chairman of the Deanery Synod) – here and one – Laura Ford – in Nether Exe. With the assistance of retired clergy with ‘PtO’ and, increasingly, valuable input from lay parishioners in their own churches the ‘show is kept on the road’.

When Nigel left one of the remaining three incumbents, Katie, had only recently taken up her post and Kingsley and Lindsey are looking towards retirement – so I was asked to become Rural Dean. I had served in this role in the Rochester Diocese (Shoreham Deanery, between Sevenoaks and West Malling, eleven benefices stretching from the North Downs and the Darenth Valley across the Greensand Ridge to the Weald of Kent) and Gloucester Diocese (Stow Deanery, five benefices including twenty one parishes, twenty nine churches, in the North Cotswolds), so had some relevant experience. It is, however, interesting to compare these three Deaneries.

 In Kent one of the benefices included three parishes, another two, but the rest were single parish livings – large villages, with significant proportions of their residents commuting to London. Oasts, frequently converted for human occupation, pointed to hops as a previous crop, but fruit, commonly strawberries and apples, were now more important, and one of my parishioners grew acres of rhubarb. On the high Cotswold plateau sheep still grazed, as they had for centuries, much grain was grown and one of my parishioners processed rapeseed oil from his own and neighbours’ crops. (The Country File farmer, Adam Henson, ran a working farm and the Cotswold Farm Park just up the road.) Here the hills are steeper and field boundaries Devon hedges rather than the Cotswold dry-stone walls but as in Kent and Gloucestershire seasonal changes remain important – and at Harvest we encounter large agricultural machinery just as we did in those other rural areas.

Some will know that I was commissioned as Rural Dean at the Mothering Sunday service at Shobrooke by the Bishop of London, acting for the Bishop of Exeter. Bishop Sarah was awaiting her ‘enthronement’ at St Paul’s Cathedral, but had already been formally appointed so was no longer Suffragen Bishop of Crediton, although she could not act in her new Diocese until she had been formally installed in her cathedral. For me this represented an interesting coincidence – I had been ordained in St Paul’s and licensed as assistant curate at Ealing by the then Bishop of London, the Right Revd Dr Graham Leonard. I have now been commissioned for what must be my last official role by the present Bishop of London, the Right Revd Dame Sarah Mullally – and the former, while ordaining women as deacons, would not ordain them as priests, let alone bishops! How things change – and yet we serve the same church, the same Lord.

This Diocese has identified as its priorities:

– Growing in prayer;

– Making new disciples;

– Serving the people of Devon with joy.

These should underpin our life in our churches, and the Deanery and Diocese should be effective supports to our local witness to our Christian faith.

David Francis

Rural Dean of Cadbury 

Photos © Bill Jerman