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Vacancies for vicars

PUBLISHED: 09:00 02 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:06 03 March 2010

A PRIEST has issued a warning to the region's bishops after it was revealed there were many vacancies in their dioceses for vicars.

The Rev Dr Graham Blyth claimed parishes could wait up to 18 months for a new priest to arrive and feared that could lead to fall in congregation numbers.

A PRIEST has issued a warning to the region's bishops after it was revealed there were many vacancies in their dioceses for vicars.

The Rev Dr Graham Blyth claimed parishes could wait up to 18 months for a new priest to arrive and feared that could lead to fall in congregation numbers.

Dr Blyth gave his warning as the Church of England revealed Christmas had marked a high point in a religious revival across the country with congregations estimated to have increased by up to 20 per cent on last year.

It is believed that might be due to the public turning back to the Church of England and looking to it for spiritual guidance following the terrorist attacks on the USA.

Latest figures have revealed 14 of the 180 benefices in the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich diocese were without a priest – although three of them are due to be filled shortly.

Dr Blyth, a priest in Essex and the East Anglian spokesman for the clergy and church workers' branch of the Manufacturing Science and Finance Union, feared vacant benefices was a recipe for decline in the Church of England.

"Church numbers drop off without a priest, almost inevitably. There is no central figure, which means some people will drift away. People find it demoralising and dispiriting," he said.

One vicar's wife, who asked not to be named, added: "Some parishes are lucky enough to find retired clergy to fill in with services, but others really struggle.

"It does bring out the best in the laity, but priests are also being given more and more parishes to administer and it's a killer. Churches in villages do not get the services they want and priests do not have the time to really talk to people, they are rushing about all the time."

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