The first is that they should surely be something of a temporary nature rather than a long-term strategy. My reason for thinking this is that many of those so engaged in such a work are generally engaged in keeping lights on and a dogcollar in the vicarage. This isn't meant to denigrate the work of the HfD priest and in fact I am a great supporter of them, but I haven't come across many missional members of this fraternity, they are generally very much a maintenance model. Considering that the role asks for Sunday and two other days what more could be expected. That many give as much as a full-time minister is a mark of their commitment and their call(God bless them richly).
My next area of thinking is who should be doing the role? This question came to the fore after I met a really lovely vicar type who was in an HfD role and during our conversation told me of their 'own home' and how they'd rented it out until the licence ended and they 'retired properly'. You see I've always thought of HfD being something that enabled those clergy without their own home to continue in a less strenuous place and in return find themselves in a home. My thinking here is that perhaps HfD should be restricted to those who don't have their own home (mind you I know of a minister whose other half had a home and this goes to show that there's always additional considerations). I guess I'd also struggle with NSM ministers who have a home and yet see this as a ministry opportunity or an opportunity to have cake and eat it in terms of housing provision and possession of a home too. Not sure if this is a reality but it is a potential happening.
The next thought is that of wondering how many? How many HfD vacancies / posts are there and how many are offering themselves for such a role? If you can't get such a post filled what's the alternative? Where I am we have an absolutely great minister covering the HfD post and the lightness of touch and the joy that they bring, coupled with the fact that they live in their own home makes the issue of losing such a post a real possibility, especially in the light of 'sustainability' discussions and the prospect of relieving deaneries of 0.2 of a post cheaply (and then of course, how long before some smart person realises that this releases housing stock and brings in much needed cash as another silver spoon is sold from the set?
Of course the retired but in HfD post clergy are able to claim the fees for themselves (with some diocesan types thinking how nice it would be to retain some percentage for the coffers) but the Non-stipendiary clergy cannot do this, which makes an NSM appointment more attractive.
So, a number of questions and considerations and within it the problematic area whereby so many NSMs tell me that they feel unloved and might see this as adding to the lack of love. I applaud and respect the NSM role but stop short at the delineation made by one who (with a straight face and seriously) that they (NSMs), "Loved the church more than stipendiaries because they gave their time to the church for free whilst stipendiaries took money." I had to reply, "And work whether they choose to or not, which is not the case for the NSM." (this was just after the comment had been passed that, "Evening meetings were OK for the stipendiaries but NSMs had to work during the day as well!" Suicidal tendencies or what? :-) )
So please don't see this as a knock at NSM, Stipendiary, retired or whatever - it is an honest attempt to dialogue with an issue that needs to be grappled with for leaving a church as a perennial HfD post is missionally wrong and yet the HfD role is a fantastic opportunity for a time to catch breath, consider centres of residence (and rural imperatives) and imagine the church of the future facilitated and touching where it needs to be with the realisation that a church in every Parish will always be a reality, but it will be of living stones and may not have a vicar in a vicarage.
Clear challenges and obvious opportunities in something that is a high inertial load.
Please read this for what is written and do not assume that I am looking to deny or pull down any minister or type of ministry (unless you want a discussion on Locally Ordained Ministers that is!!)
As Mrs Vicarage went to blow out the gas lamp
she thought that this wasn't quite what he thought the bishop meant
when he said that their new HfD post was intense!