A letter from the The Ven. Alex Hughes

A message from the Archdeacon of Cambridge
Read at Morning Service on Sunday 6th December 2015


To the congregations of Fen Drayton with Conington, and Lolworth with Swavesey

It is now three months since John Yule retired as Vicar of Fen Drayton with Conington and Lolworth with Swavesey. Since then your Churchwardens and others have given very generously of their time and energy to manage the period of vacancy, for which they deserve our sincere gratitude. The Rural Dean has also been hard at work with the Deanery Pastoral Committee deliberating how best to provide mission and ministry across your parishes in the future, with a focus on development and growth. Drawing on the existing Deanery Plan they have proposed a new way forward for your consideration. The suggestion is as follows:

  • that Conington becomes part of the Papworth Team in the Bourne Deanery, which would seem to make geographical sense, and should improve opportunities to work with children especially, who are schooled in a neighbouring village;
  • that Fen Drayton is linked with the neighbouring Parish of Fenstanton in Huntingdon Deanery, which is currently served by a half-time Priest-in-Charge;
  • that Lolworth and Swavesey become part of a new Team Ministry incorporating the parishes of Willingham, Longstanton and Over. The new Team would be led by Julie Anderson (as Team Rector) and a full-time Team Vicar (to be appointed in due course). Additional paid ministry would be provided at a later date to coincide with the development at Northstowe.

These proposals represent a significant change from the arrangements that have prevailed for nearly thirty years. Similar pastoral reorganisation has taken place elsewhere within the North Stowe Deanery, and across the Church of England, to reflect the changing context of
church life, ministry and mission; so it is quite normal, but understandably it can also be quite unsettling. Because of this it will be important make time for discussion and reflection though not so much time that the vacancy goes on for too long. Some of the discussions must take the form of legal consultations, as required by legislation relating to church matters; but hopefully these formal elements of the process will reflect a consensus built through informal consultation. The main channel for this is the PCC, but it will be important to keep the congregations and (where appropriate) the wider parish informed and engaged. One of the advantages with the arrangement proposed by the Deanery Pastoral Committee is that we could move more swiftly to provide permanent ministry for each parish than if we were going through the standard appointments process.

The next step is to arrange meetings between representatives of all the churches that will be affected by the proposals, as well as the Rural Deans and other relevant church officers. I have asked the Rural Dean to oversee this from January to February 2016. In the meantime,
each of the parishes currently in vacancy will want to consider its own needs and hopes with respect to worship, ministry and mission, to be confident that the proposed new arrangements will serve them well. This is a task for the PCCs. It would be helpful to hear an initial respone to the general plan by the end of December if possible.  My role as Archdeacon is to support the local process and administer any formal or legal arrangements.

It is sometimes felt that a period of vacancy is a time of stagnation. Although the vacancy poses some real challenges, it is also an opportunity to review the life of the local church, to discover people’s gifts and to consider the future in a fresh light. With or without a parish priest, Christ calls you to follow him, and assures you of his presence and strength through the Holy Spirit. Amidst the present uncertainty I pray that you will continue in faith, hope and love, to be ready for whatever God may have in store for you in the years to come.

The Ven. Alex Hughes