A few years ago, the twin parish of St Peter Penhill and St Philip Lower Stratton were combined into one single parish. They were under the care of Red Carol Stone. Since her death they have been without a vicar. Sadly the most recent advertisement in the Church Times produced no candidates for the post. This is by no meansan isolated example in our diocese, especially in Swindon. It is a cause for concern. The parishes in question are now facing an uncertain future.

It is an indication of a deeper change. Just a few years ago there were more clergy than churches. Curates were advised that the diocese could not guarantee them a post. The situation is reversing fast. There are now more vacancies being advertised than there are clergy available to fill them. And there is a massive bulge of clergy due to retire within the next seven years. During that period the Church of England will lose more than a third of its clergy.

The Renewal and Reform Programme initiated by the General Synod is taking steps to increase vocations to the ordained ministry by 50%. Even if that target is completely achieved, it will still mean that by 2025 we will have fewer clergy than we have today.

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