Villages finally get vicar again after two 'lamentable' years
- Credit: Ken Grapes
Three villages on the Norfolk Broads will finally get a new vicar after two "lamentable" years without one.
In March Ludham, Catfield and Potter Heigham will be celebrating the arrival of Rev Gary Noyes.
The Waterside Group of Churches have been without a vicar since the end of 2019 - a gap that was called "lamentable" in a village newsletter and on the benefice's website.
Ken Grapes and Rita Gibson, church wardens at Ludham's St Catherine's Church, had published a column with their views on not having a vicar for two years.
The church wardens go on to explain the background to the situation, with cuts made by the Church of England and a focus on areas of deprivation by the Diocese of Norwich.
Their statement said: "The Waterside Group of Churches has been without a vicar for well over two years. This is a lamentable state of affairs."
They welcome Rev Noyes' appointment as a "part-time priest" who will be "an admirable vicar" who will work for a limited number of days each week in return for the use of the vicarage.
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In response the Archdeacon of Norfolk, Steven Betts, said: "We warmly welcome Rev Gary Noyes' appointment and look forward to him ministering in the Diocese of Norwich.
"The community at Ludham have been supported in the vacancy by a variety of clergy, and in particular, their Rural Dean.
"Each year we receive some national funding which is increasingly focused on areas of significant deprivation, such as Great Yarmouth, to make ministry possible where funding is more difficult.
"A review took place in 2020 into the pattern of deployment of paid clergy following the need to reduce costs in the light of the Covid pandemic.
"Across the Diocese, priority was placed on areas of deprivation with the lowest income communities, as well as in areas of high population.
"For example, there was a benefice with a population of over 20,000 served by one stipendiary priest, whilst a number of other benefices of less than 2,000 people were being served by one stipendiary priest.”
Rev Noyes will be licenced at Ludham church on March 6.
He was raised in Norfolk, is priest in charge at Peopleton Church in Worcestershire and said he was looking forward to ministering at the three churches.
More from the church wardens' statement
"When our last clergy retired in late 2019, the Diocese advertised the post, but without success.
"This situation was allowed to continue without any resolution by our Diocese, which placed us under the care of our Rural Dean as Priest in Charge.
"We subsequently discovered that the Church Commissioners had re-allocated the funds which had in the past supported ministry in rural parishes, in favour of urban ones.
"This has resulted in a major financial shortfall in rural areas like ours, which has led to our Diocese deciding to reduce its stipendiary (salaried) clergy by 10%.
"Clergy stipends being the main item of Diocesan expenditure.
"Because of this, the Diocese wished to unite the Waterside group with the Horning group of churches, with a single stipendiary clergy.
"The Waterside Church Wardens were not in favour of such a move and it was agreed that a part time priest could be appointed for Ludham, Catfield and Potter Heigham."