Help! Our vicar is leaving

When a vacancy arises in a parish it is undoubtedly a difficult time for those concerned with “keeping the church going”. Usually the Area Dean has general oversight of the parish in these situations and it is important to remember a curate or non stipendiary minister does not automatically become priest in charge. It is also important for members of the PCC and parish to support each other and look to neighbouring parishes for support; it is an excellent opportunity to form the basis of collaborative ministry.

A good idea is to establish a certain time when people in the parish with queries can contact the parish office. It is useful to post this information on the church notice board.

During a vacancy the Churchwardens will find that they have extra responsibilities such as the safety and security of the parsonage house and management of the sequestration account.

In case of any queries you can always contact your Area Dean, the Archdeacon’s office or Church House. Visit Who's Who for contact details.

The diocese is committed to offering help and support when it is needed.

Sequestration information

The main source of income during a period of sequestration is ‘local’ income. All fee income which would normally be paid to an incumbent, as prescribed in the Table of Parochial Fees, should be credited to the Sequestration Account for the benefice; this applies even when the parish has an assistant staff member and they conduct all services during the vacancy.

The Diocesan Board of Finance will be responsible for reimbursement of appropriate expenses to balance the account. Expenses which can be charged to a Sequestration Account include parsonage telephone line rental, cost of maintaining ‘minimum’ heating of parsonage, reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the induction of a new incumbent (e.g. postage). However, if these charges are to be reclaimed, you are asked to try to keep them as low as possible. If in doubt please consult the Diocesan Office in advance.

(Please note: security alarm maintenance, water rates and parsonage house repairs are not chargeable to the Sequestration Account.)

A monthly mailing of matters of interest is sent by the diocese to each parish and during a vacancy this is addressed to the PCC Secretary. The PCC Secretary should arrange to keep the Churchwardens informed. 

The Bishop’s Directions Concerning Remuneration

No payments are to be made by the sequestrators to retired clergy taking services during a vacancy. Retired clergy apply to the Diocesan Board of Finance for the appropriate payment, i.e. any fee or travelling expenses. All others taking services should be offered travelling expenses which can be charged to the sequestration account. 

Vacant parsonages

Sequestrators should notify the police and the Property Secretary as soon as the house is empty. Click here for the Property secion.

When the furniture has been removed from the house the Local Authority should be contacted for information regarding Council Tax on ‘unoccupied’ property held for the occupation by a Minister of Religion. Water rates are not payable on unfurnished houses.

During severe winter weather serious damage can result from flooding caused by burst radiators, boilers, cisterns, etc. This can be avoided if the water supply is turned off and the water system is thoroughly empties. If necessary the Property Department should be consulted and the Diocesan Bishop has declared that the costs so incurred are authorised by him and will be reimbursed by the diocese under the provisions of the Repair of Benefice Buildings Measure 1972. This will not, of course, apply to those houses where the period of sequestration is short and where the heating is maintained to prevent bursts and other damage to the plumbing system.

The telephone should not be disconnected (as a re-connection fee would be charged when the new priest arrives). The line rental can be charged into the Sequestration Account.

Because of the dangers of vandalism sequestrators should take especial care that the parsonage house is secure and inspected internally and externally at least twice a week. If possible a liver-in appearance should be maintained by use of lights on timers and curtained windows.

Any lettings may ONLY be done through the Property Committee and Diocesan Registry with a formal Tenancy Agreement incorporating appropriate safeguards.

If you are not clear on any of these matters please don’t hesitate to contact the Diocesan Office.

Useful Resources

Vacancy Handbook 

Growing Through a Vacancy
Clergy with permission to officiate