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House of Commons Hansard
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Stipendiary Priests
26 November 2009
Volume 501
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3. What the average number of churches is in a rural parish which is in the charge of a stipendiary priest. [301667]

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We do not keep records of which parishes are rural and which are not. However, I know from the latest edition of “Church Statistics”—the hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key) will be very aware of this—that there are, on average, 2.1 churches to a benefice, with figures ranging from 1.3 churches per benefice in Portsmouth diocese to 3.6 churches per benefice in Hereford diocese.

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Taking that with the hon. Gentleman’s answer to the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor), it appears that more parishes are going to be covered by the same stipendiary priests. I know that the Second Church Estates Commissioner has visited Teesdale, where I was brought up, and parishes in North Yorkshire are very similar. Parish priests are extremely hard pressed. What can he do to make their lives a little easier in getting around to administer to parishes?

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for reminding us of our last exchange, when I mentioned my visit to Teesdale churches. She asks about stipendiary priests, but I should point out that the Church is also well served by many thousands of others, including non-stipendiary ministers, chaplains and retired clergy. Taking that into account, at the end of 2007 more than 20,000 ministers were licensed by Church of England dioceses—that is one minister for every 2,500 people in England. Is not that a remarkable fact, Mr. Speaker?

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I thank my hon. Friend for the information regarding stipendiary and non-stipendiary priests. Does he have a precise figure for how many non-stipendiary priests there are in the Church of England—and may I pay tribute to them? My second late husband, John Hammersley, spent his last four years of working as a Church of England vicar in the Oxford diocese training and preparing for ordination non-stipendiary priests, and he was terribly impressed by their abilities.

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for referring to the good work that the non-stipendiaries do and how much that work is appreciated in the Church. In response also to the earlier question from the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack), the clergy work load is always under review and it is part of the bishops’ pastoral care for the clergy. My hon. Friend’s point is very well made.