There are so many interesting conversations to be had regarding what a 'Vicar' really is and does at the moment.
We have some who consider themselves in places merely to 'keep the lights on' and this raises some good stuff regarding 'mission vs maintenance' and whether 'lights on' is enough (or valid).
There is the issue of Self Supporting Ministers (the ministers previously known as 'Non Stipendiary'*) and what they offer and how they are regarded by others and, perhaps more importantly, by self!
We have those who are 'locally ordained' and how they, their churches and the establishment see them.
As the numbers of stipendiary clergy diminish as the old adage of 'cutting one's coat according to our cloth' is applies; and looking increasingly towards living out the 'can't pay - can't have' mantra, the reality is that the locally-ordained are viewed (by many) as those who will replace the departing stipendiaries at ground level. Something that leads us to also consider the return of some form of Minister model
In broaching these discussions, people have pointed to the demise of the old 'one parson - one parish' and the fact that unless some (especially 'rural' church?) 'grow their own' then they are doomed to closure. But then again if we put clergy into a building without a strategy for growth are we being effective for the Kingdom or merely putting off the dreadful day of reckoning and leaving it to be 'someone else's' problem?
Another part of the problem is the fact that many of the locally-ordained are perhaps a little older than the twenty-four yr old priest who made the press today and they move with retirement and get ill and, as one person put it, simply 'die' (don't we all?) and where full-time posts are replaced with others the church's find themselves bereft and without a shepherd.
And as for 'no cost' options - there is the supervision of the locally ordained (three years) and then the Training Incumbent roles and then being a 'line manager' after that (for ministry and management are indeed two different elements!). Sounds like quite a bit of emotional, spiritual, physical, practical and temporal cost to me!
The Local Ordination process is much akin to eating spaghetti, for once embarked upon, the churches need to keep sucking to ensure that there is more in the chain and to prevent the day when the can (spaghetti only comes in cans doesn't it?) yields its last!
All of the above appear to regard the minister as the person who 'staffs' the church building rather than shepherds the sheep and facilitates, trains, releases and supports. As a friend put it (accurate as ever) the clergyperson is the 'religious service provider'.
So here we are - much to discuss and reflect upon (I hope) for everyone, for Church is about all-member, collegial, Kingdom ministry - not the few.