House-for-Duty Priests

I wrote this is a paper to help Deaneries/Mission Area Planning Groups when they are considering creating a House-for-Duty post in their planning.


The appointment of a “House-for-Duty” priest is one way of responding to the challenges brought about by the reducing availability of stipendiary clergy.  Incorporating such a provision into a deanery plan requires careful consideration to avoid such a ministry just being a way of delaying a real engagement with the challenges facing the church in the north of the Diocese.  This paper is offered as an aid to such consideration and also as a guide to help us endorse such proposals.

The ‘pool’ of priests willing to undertake such a ministry is relatively small and deanery plans which are dependent on such appointments are inevitably ‘vulnerable to the market’, as many diocese are now seeking to make such appointments and, as can be seen in the church press,  the market for House-for-Duty priests is therefore extremely competitive.   House-for-Duty provision should therefore only be considered as a transitional ministry to help a Deanery establish its long term plan, as it will not be helpful in the longer term for a House-for-Duty priest to become essential to a normative pattern of ministry, mission and worship.

A fundamental principle for the appointment of any priest needs to be kept in mind when considering this course of action, namely that the quality of ministry has to be paramount.  This principle applies just as much to House-for-Duty provision as it does for stipendiary ministry.  In the end it is not just about appointing a priest, but appointing the right priest for the context and for the transitional task envisaged by a deanery plan.

The appointment of a House-for-Duty priest is intended to bring additional priesthood into the life of a local church – it is not a means of gaining a free ‘Vicar’.  A Deanery plan will therefore need to suggest which stipendiary priest in the deanery is going to hold the incumbency for the benefice in which the House-for-Duty priest will be working.


‘House-for-Duty’ is an arrangement whereby a priest can live in the vicarage  in exchange for offering priestly ministry to a benefice, but without receiving a stipend. The pool of those available to undertake such a ministry is relatively small and in the main comprises  retired priests  or non-stipendiary ministers receiving an income in some other way, but still able to offer time to ministry.

Any agreement for a “House-for-Duty” arrangement will last for three years or until the priest reaches the age of 70, whichever is the sooner.  Any agreement may be renewed for a further period at the end of three years.  The maximum term for a House-for-Duty post within a plan is therefore six years.    The Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey will conduct a review of the licence about six months before the expiry of the first term. The priest may resign giving at least three months notice.

The exact terms of the occupation of the property will be determined in each case.   The Diocese will maintain the property in the same way as all benefice properties and the Deanery will pay the Diocesan rate for housing which is normally included in the cost of a stipendiary priest (circa £9000pa in 2008).  Deaneries will need to calculate costs over a three year period initially and at the time of the Archdeacon’s review.  The appointed person will pay gas and electric charges.

Moving expenses will be paid by the Diocese as for any priest moving to a new parish, but removal expenses when they leave the parish will not be paid. Parishes must commit themselves to meeting the expenses incurred in connection with parochial responsibilities in full.  Fees for all occasional offices taken by the priest in the parish or for parishioners will be payable to the Incumbent.  There can be no payments made to the priest by the Diocese, Deanery, Benefice or the incumbent for their ministry.

It is expected that for a House-for-Duty appointment the priest  will carry out Sunday duties plus at least 2 other days each week. The house is for themselves and their family. If they wish to share the house with others then this can be achieved by agreement with the Diocese.   The priest will be entitled to the same arrangements for holiday and Sunday’s off as described in the guidance to clergy in the Diocese of Lincoln.

(See Appendix I for an example of a licence to occupy the property)

Ministry within a plan

If priestly ministry is a gift from God to his Church, then the way in which we use that gift reflects something of our gratitude for God’s generosity and for the ministry of the individual priest. Carefully  planning how to share this gift amongst the people of our parishes  it not about management, but an expression of the work of the spirit thought the gift of administration (1 Corinthians 12:28).

A challenging question as we plan our use of the God-given gifts of ministry asks whether we are trying to ‘keep things going’ or whether we are planning for growth.    Growth comes in many different ways, but it will always come from the realities of being the church we are, rather than the church we were.  How would incorporating a House-for-Duty post within a Deanery plan enable growth?  What skills would an interview panel need to look for in a priest to secure aspirations for growth?

As the availability of House-for-Duty priests is limited, planning has to include a description of how a benefice/deanery will be resourced for ministry after the period of House-for-Duty ministry envisaged.  A plan that does not contain such a description is unlikely to be endorsed.

(See Appendix II for a description of growth)


The future for the church in our part of the Diocese is likely to be resourced through local vocations to the priesthood.  In the future this will probably be true for both stipendiary and non-stipendiary ministry.  A deanery plan for a House-for-Duty priest must include a programme to realise vocations to the priesthood, so that we reduce our dependency on the rest of the church for this essential element to our mission and ministry.

A MAPG seeking to incorporate the provision of a House-for-Duty post within their plan needs to agree a programme for developing lay and ordained vocations with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands and incorporate that programme within their plan.

Duty of Care

Evidence about the experience of being a House-for-Duty priest is still largely anecdotal.  Bishops, deaneries, and parishes have, however, a duty of care towards priests unfolding this ministry.  Anecdotally, there is the suggestion that extremely high expectations are placed upon those exercising ministry in a House-for-Duty post.  This can give rise to stress and dissatisfaction.

In the main, those offering themselves for this dimension of ministry have not undergone a stipendiary curacy nor have they developed a pattern of full-time ministry which preserves a balance between work and leisure.  The anecdotal evidence is that many priests in such situations work beyond the agreed number of days and work beyond their range of experience.

To ensure that priests working in this dimension of ministry are adequately and professionally supported, the priests in questions will be licensed as ‘Assistant Curates’ and will work in collaboration with the stipendiary priest holding the incumbency of the benefice, as well as with others in ministry in the benefice.  The effect of such a licence gives the priest a place on the PCC and in the Deanery Synod – it does not bring all the implicit and explicit expectations of incumbency – they are thus freed to be ministers of Word and Sacrament, without being encumbered with institutional responsibilities.  These responsibilities remain with the incumbent, the Churchwardens and the PCC.

Appointment process

As with all priests in the Diocese, the decision to appoint a House-for-Duty priest ultimately rests with the bishop, normally working through the suffragan bishop.   To ensure the contribution of the various interests involved in the use and deployment of ordained ministry, the appointment group will comprise a representative from each parish involved, the incumbent of the benefice, the Rural Dean, the Deanery Lay Chair and myself.

The appointment group will be guided by a ‘Statement of Needs for a House-for-Duty priest’ drawn up by the benefice, guided by the Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey.  This document will contain details of the benefice, the house and the life of the parish(es), the transition in the benefice envisaged during this period of ministry, the essential and desirable skills being looked for in a priest who will be working to achieve this transition.

This Statement will be provided to those who respond to the advertisement for the post.  The advertisement will be placed by my assistant, but will be paid for by the benefice (circa £800).

The Blessings

Priestly ministry is both a blessing and a gift to the Church and to the community.  House-for-Duty priests are part of the blessings available to us from a generous God.  If used with the deliberation and care suggested in this paper, they will bring much to the places where they work.



THIS LICENCE is made the     day of      Two thousand and      BETWEEN:

(1)          “The Licensor”: The Right Reverend Father in God John Charles Saxbee by Divine Permission Lord Bishop of Lincoln in his corporate capacity acting in the name and on behalf of the Incumbent of the Benefice of            and the Diocese of Lincoln and

(2)               “The Licensee”:


(1)               This Licence relates to the property known as                              (“the Property”)

(2)          The Property comprises a residence belonging to the said Benefice and the Licensee is required to reside therein for the better performance of his/her duties as a Priest with pastoral responsibility in the Parish of                          within the Deanery of


1.         The Licensor permits the Licensee without payment to occupy the Property from         until the termination of this Licence as provided in Clause 4 below

2.         THE Licensee agrees with the Licensor as follows:-

2.1             To notify her occupancy to all relevant suppliers and to pay all accounts for the supply of electricity gas and all services to the Property and for the rental and the use of the telephone equipment

2.2             To keep the interior of the Property in a good and clean condition (fair wear and tear excepted) and to redecorate the interior when reasonably necessary

2.3             To keep the garden in good and tidy condition

2.4             Not to make any alterations or additions to the Property nor to attach fixtures and fittings to any part of it without the written consent of the Licensor or the Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey

2.5             Not to allow or permit any nuisance or annoyance to be created on the Property

2.6             To use the Property only as a single private dwelling house for the Licensee and her immediate family and temporary guests and not to use it or any part of it for any other purpose, saving the provisions in clause 2.7 below

2.7             The Licensee may let one or more rooms in the Property (but not the whole thereof) and any such lettings and the terms and conditions thereof shall be subject to the prior written approval of the Licensor.  For the avoidance of doubt any such lettings shall be by way of assured shorthold tenancy agreements and shall prohibit subletting

2.8             To give the Licensor or the Archdeacon promptly a copy of any notice received concerning the Property and to notify the Licensor or the Archdeacon immediately of any defect in or damage to the Property

3.          THIS Licence is personal to the Licensee and is not assignable by her

4.            THIS Licence is terminable in the following manner and circumstances:-

4.1         Upon the expiry of one month from the date on which the Licensee ceases to hold the Licence of the Bishop of Lincoln to minister in the said Parishes

4.2         Immediately upon service of a notice in writing by the Licensor or the specifying a serious breach of any of the Licensee’s obligations

4.3         Without notice if the Licensee shall cease to reside in the Property or

4.4         Upon three months written notice given to the Licensee by the Licensor or vice versa

whichever shall be the earlier and upon termination of the Licence the Licensee shall remove all her possessions from the Property and shall give vacant possession of it to the Licensor

5.                 THE management and control of the Property shall remain vested in the Licensor and nothing herein contained shall create the relationship of Landlord and Tenant between the Licensor and the Licensee or derogate from the rights of the Licensor and all persons authorised by him to enter upon the Property from time to time to maintain and repair the same

6.            IN this Licence the expression “the Licensor” shall where the context admits include the person persons or body in whom the Property is for the time being vested

AS WITNESS the hands of the parties hereto the day and the year first before written

SIGNED by the said                                             )


LORD BISHOP OF LINCOLN                             )

In the presence of:-                                              )

SIGNED by the said                                             )

(full name) )

in the presence of:                                                )

Growth – what do you mean?    Appendix II

Recently a group of incumbent met to consider growth and the following is an extract from their conversation.

The group considered the multi-faceted nature of church growth.  Whilst they accepted that the number of people going to church is one indicator of growth, they concluded that there are other areas for growth which are also important and which may indeed be precursors for numerical growth.  In this sense they suggested that growth needs to be both ‘organic’ and ‘systemic’ – affecting the whole church community/activity and becoming of its nature.  They identified some key areas for growth: spiritual; personal maturity in faith; knowledge and understanding; the quality of relationship both within the church and between the church and its community; the influence which faith has on the individual and on community values.

In each of the above areas for growth the group recognised that an incumbent was distinctively placed within the life of the church to affect how much attention/priority is placed on or given to these areas for church growth.

How would you recognise growth?

Drawing on their experience in ministry, the group described ways in which growth can be recognised and experienced.  They considered that church growth leads to the increased viability of a congregation, not because of their numbers, but because of the texture of their life.  They pointed to a quality change in terms of relationships, the managing of conflict, commitment (time/money) and engagement with the ‘fringe’.

They also focused on how organic growth could be identified by attitudes of inclusivity and welcome which lead to sustainability and ‘stickability’ for the church community.   In essence growth leads to a thinking church community which is mature enough to react positively to the challenges of change and the brokenness of life.

3 Responses to House-for-Duty Priests

  1. John Sturgeon says:

    I live in a rural part of Cornwall and attend a local church that has relied on a house for duty vicar for many years.

    This ths meant one retired priest being replaced by another, and yet another, with interegnums in between each 3 to 5 year appointment. This has given lack of focus and continuity, and even conflict.

    I found your comments very reassuring and encourageing that somewhere within the established church the problem is being addressed.

    • Bishop David says:

      John, thank you for sharing your experience. It echos my concern that we must avoid just keeping a system going. I believe that priesthood is one of God’s gifts to his church for the advancement of his Kingdom and we must use the gift to take forward God’s mission and ministry in a new age. Just keeping things going is not the vocation of the Church.

  2. Freddy Crabbe says:

    I am concerned that having removed the right of parish priests to have the freehold of what was once theirs by right as the minister during their time as the incumbent it has become possible for Bishops to exert undue influence on them in the performance of their duties to the detriment of both them and their parishioners by for instance adding to their workload with additional Diocesan duties. What protection against that is available to ministers and PCCs. There have been instances in this Diocese of Priests in charge being threatened with eviction with their families for not complying with Bishop’s directions to influence PCC’s decisions.

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