Those who were present at St Peter’s Annual Parochial Church Meeting on Sunday 30 April will be aware that our vicar, the Rev John Rainer, announced that he will be retiring this coming autumn, after 20 years as vicar of St Peter’s.
For those who were not able to attend the meeting, the following is the text of John’s vicar’s address to the meeting:
“In a few days time, on 11th May, I will have been Vicar of St Peter’s for 20 years. Where has the time gone? In February this year I told the PCC that in November 2024, I would be obliged by Church of England rules, to retire. I am announcing today that Julie and I will be leaving St Peter’s this coming autumn.
It was last August that I first shared with both the Staff and the Bishop that I was considering retirement. At that time there was a major obstacle, which was that Julie and I don’t have anywhere to live apart from St Peter’s Vicarage at 2 Glenhurst Road where we have been very happy. Our search for somewhere new to live has not been easy because the property market has been difficult, but we are now on the verge of exchanging contracts on a very nice property not far from our daughter. So we are now looking at a countdown towards moving. Of course there is no perfect time to move, and it involves big change for both of us, but it was going to happen sooner or later, and we feel that this is the right time.
I must start with a huge thank you to my Staff Team, who have worked very hard, sometimes under extreme pressure, to help me keep the church running. All of them deserve our respect and gratitude. In particular I want to thank Kerry, our Administrator, for picking up that role at a very difficult time just over a year ago, and presiding over a near-revolution in the Office. Thank you so much for working so hard on all of our behalf, and I wish you and Duncan well as you prepare both for the birth of baby and life after ordination at Bradford Cathedral. I know we’ll still be seeing you in the future. I am pleased to say that we have made a Maternity Cover appointment in the Office, and we’ll be introducing you all to Jenni in due course.
To say that the last year has been difficult is a serious understatement. We didn’t think that Rachel (McGirr, former Youth and children’s Worker) would move on as soon as she did (apparently one of my sermons was the decider, so I’ve only myself to blame!) and so we have been at least one staff member down for over half the year. At the same time I have to say that I have never, in 35 years of parish ministry, talked with so many people who are describing to me what we have come to call ‘burnout’ – both volunteers and paid staff who have come to the end of themselves and need to withdraw from front line ministry in order to recover. It isn’t just here – many of my clergy colleagues are currently on long term sick leave with symptoms of burnout. I have wondered whether the church really knows how to minister to people who are experiencing this: and I want to say to us, we have to get a handle on it, because it is going to keep happening if we don’t change the way we do church. In fact I believe that any organisation or body which relies heavily on volunteers is not going to survive in the future. It is time to rethink.
It is also the case that the church has been affected by the massive change in society’s perception of mental health. NHS mental health provision was already overwhelmed before lockdown. In the church we have realised that we have been sitting on a huge mental health problem, and we have to some extent panicked because the problem is so widespread. We have assumed that the Bible has nothing to say about mental health because the healing ministry of Jesus is focussed on physical healings. Well – it is harder to find what’s being said about mental health because the terminology is different, but I think it is there, and since we know that God wants us healed and whole, we can confidently pray for healing whilst knowing that we are not all medical professionals. At St Peter’s we have a head start on most churches, as we have a Healing Prayer Team already: I urge you all to remember that this is not niche activity in the corner of church services. It will have to be more prominent in the future.
So what of the future? In a moment I’ll ask Mike Moss, in his capacity as Lay Chair of Deanery, to outline what currently happens when a Vicar leaves (remember it’s 20 years since it happened here, so very few of you will remember it well). I think it’s clear that whatever happens, the next priest in charge won’t stay for 20 years! The Diocese probably has some sort of plan up its gaiters. Your job will be to pray for the Wardens and PCC elected today and the Staff who will have a major role in deciding what happens next. You need to be praying that the values which have served us well over the years are respected both by them and any future staff who come and work here. Let that be your guide and don’t just accept the first thing that comes along. As well as the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we will need the other ‘holy trinity’ of The Bible, The Cross and Mission to continue as the basis of all we do.
It has been, and will continue to be until we move, a privilege to minister here. That isn’t to say that it’s always been easy or that our work has been universally liked! It is very regrettable that the Diocese hasn’t always given this church the credit it deserves for the work which has been done, and for the money raised, over the past few years. Perhaps you’ll remember us when you hear about Bradford City playing Tranmere Rovers in the future. I wonder which one I’m going to support?