A vicar is an ordained priest who is assigned to a particular parish. Working from the church in his or her Parish, a vicar holds religious services such as communal worship, marriages, funerals and christenings. A vicar provides the focal point of a parish, a localised religious community composed of parishioners. Parishioners, or equally non-practising individuals can go to the vicar in times of crisis, spiritual doubt or simply for friendship and guidance. A vicar guides his or her ‘flock’ of parishioners through their spiritual life so that they may carry out God’s work, helping themselves and those around them achieve happiness on earth and gain entry to Heaven in the after-life.
- Curates (trainee vicars in their first four years of service to the church) earn around £15,000 per annum.
- The starting salary for fully ordained vicars is £17,000 per annum.
- Experienced vicars working in larger parishes earn between £20,000 and £28,000 per annum.
There are other benefits to working as a vicar such as free housing, usually in a rectory attached to or nearby the church.
A vicar’s daily duties could include the following:
- Early rising and possibly private morning worship.
- Early morning church service.
- Meetings with parishioners or church groups.
- Conducting private services such as marriages, christenings etc.
- Visiting housebound parishioners or those in hospital.
- Visiting other institutions such as hospitals, hospices and schools to conduct religious services.
- Managing the work of other church staff.
- Administrative duties.
The path to becoming a fully ordained vicar is fairly long, on average about 8 years. The process to becoming a vicar involves multiple stages:
- Discernment begins with a personal realisation of vocation, or a Christian calling to serve God in a specific sense. If this vocation is felt strongly, then a parishioner first contacts his vicar to discuss the matter with him or her.
- After much discussion, prayer and reflection the vicar will send the parishioner to see the DDO, Diocesan Director of Ordinands, whose job it is to listen to these applications and decide whether to take them further. If the DDO is satisfied, he or she will send the parishioner to see the Bishop.
- If the Bishop is satisfied, he or she will send the candidate to a Bishop’s Advisory Panel. Over a course of three days the candidate will have multiple interviews, a group exercise and written work to complete, reporting to a variety of examiners who study various aspects of the candidate’s suitability such as his or her faith, personal character and intellectual capacity.
- The Bishop’s Advisory panel then informs the Bishop of their decision; the Bishop can choose to ignore or take their advice either way; it is completely up to him or her.
Successful candidates are sponsored by the church for a period of study, usually full-time at a Theological college. The exact course and number of years of study are determined by the candidate’s existing theological training but it is generally two to three years. There are various course options here such as –
- BA(Hons) in Theological and Pastoral Studies
- MA(MTh)of Theology in Theological and Pastoral Studies
- Certificate(CertMin) in Ministry
- The first four years following graduation from Theological college are spent being a curate.
- In the first of these four years the Bishop ordains the curate as a deacon allowing him or her to take services and conduct funerals and baptisms.
- At the start of the second year another ordination takes place promoting the deacon to a priest and allowing him or her to conduct marriage ceremonies.
- After the four year curacy period is over, the curate then applies to be assigned to a parish of his/her own, running his or her own church as a fully ordained vicar.
A vicar needs to have a very particular set of skills. The following personal attributes are a prerequisite:
- Strong faith in the word of God and his teachings through the Bible.
- An evangelical desire to spread the love of God.
- Great interpersonal skills.
- Ability to communicate ideas effectively with humour and insight.
- Comfortable speaking in public.
- Patience and empathy.
- Good organisational skills.
- A solid grip of Christian theology and doctrine.
Vicars work from within a parish church where they conduct regular public and private services. Additionally vicars may travel to hold services or meet parishioners in schools, hospitals or private homes.
The hours are long as a vicar has to rise early in order to conduct early morning prayers and may have meetings in the evenings too. Sundays are usually a vicar’s busiest day as he or she will hold several religious services throughout the day. Saturdays meanwhile are a popular day for marriages and christenings.
In general the church is a traditional, archaic institution and women have only recently been granted access to the role of vicar, and so the great majority of vicars are male. The starting salary for both sexes is the same. Since November 2014 women vicars can go on to become Bishops in the Church of England.
Any experience working within a church or charitable institution would be useful. Also the church is looking to employ vicars of strong faith, so regular attendance at religious services and wholehearted participation in local church ventures would be advantageous.
The Church of England is the major employer of vicars in the UK.
A vicar can go on to become a Bishop and from there an Archbishop. There are only 114 Bishops and 2 Archbishops (The Archbishop of York and the Archbishop of Canterbury) in the Church of England, so competition is high. Alternatively, vicars can take extra qualifications to specialise in other forms of preaching such as missionary work.
Also known as…
What’s it really like?
Mrs Mabel Eady, 56, is an Associate Pastor of Kingdom Life in Wiltshire.
How long have you been a Pastor?
I was ordained in January 1998, though I pastored a church for about 6 years before that.
What did you do before you became a Pastor?
Before I became a Pastor I worked as a Physiotherapist Helper, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
What does a typical day consist of?
My days vary, depending on which day it is, of course. It usually begins with spending time with the Lord, in the word of God and in prayer, and listening to Him. It may also involve study, visits, meetings and administration (I dislike the admin work, but it has to be done.)
What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy reading and studying the word of God, and I love to worship the Lord in song.
Is there anything you dislike about your job?
I enjoy most aspects of my job. In fact, I do not really see it as a job, but more simply being available to the Lord, and seeking to do what He wants me to do. He is my life and to serve Him is something I love to do. Trying to keep my desk clear of paperwork is something I find frustrating, as I hate mess.
What process did you go through to become a pastor?
I did not attend Bible college but, over the years, I have done many correspondence courses and other courses at Roffey Bible College. I had pastored the church for a few years before I was ordained.
What job(s) do you think you might do after this role?
I can’t imagine doing anything else. To serve the Lord is my life and even if I were to cease pastoring, whatever I was to do, it would probably still be helping people find Jesus and encouraging them to continue in their relationship with Him.
How and why did you decide to become a Pastor?
I became a Pastor because the Lord called me to do so. I knew He has spoken to me although it is difficult for some to understand that. It is a calling. I think I knew for a long time before the actual call, that the Lord had a call on my life, and I wanted to serve Him in what ever way He wanted. On one occasion I was walking my dog, and the Holy Spirit spoke to me quietly in my heart, and said, “I am calling you to lead the people”.
Do you feel your age and experience helps?
Age and experience can help in some ways, but, ultimately, the word of God (The Bible) will equip you, and the Holy Spirit will lead you. The word of God is essential, as it is God who is calling you and He has to guide you and help you and provide for you.
If you are born again of the Spirit of God, (i.e. you are a Christian), and the Lord calls you to be a Pastor/leader, it doesn’t matter how old or young you are, the important thing is, to know you are called, and to allow Him to lead you.
What sort of meetings and visits do you have to do, and how do you cope with having to give spiritual guidance?
I lead all kinds of meetings, for example, prayer meetings, preaching, or leading a meeting, i.e. Sunday morning worship, leaders’ meetings. I attend various conferences from time to time. I also attend Home Groups when necessary.
Visits consist of meeting people at home and in hospital. Basically, I go wherever and to whoever needs me.
You can only guide anyone according to God’s word. It is better to help individuals find their answer from the Lord themselves. There are times when you have to stand with someone, or families who are bereaved, and that is not always easy, but you have to draw from the Lord Jesus and you have to trust in the Holy Spirit to help you. He is my strength and my helper. He is our comforter and when I pray for these precious people, I know that He will comfort them. Every person and every need is individual, so there is no pattern (I believe), that you can follow, but to be led by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it is enough to stand with people, sometimes just to sit with someone, or give them a hug. Words are not always the answer.
What did your correspondence courses cover?
Courses covered all sorts of subjects, from how to become a Christian, studying characters of the Bible, both men and women, Jesus Himself, His life, and subjects of baptism, healing, salvation, leadership and discipleship.
Do you have any advice for people who are considering a career as a pastor?
To someone who wants to become a pastor, I would say, don’t, unless the Lord has called you. If you are called, then give yourself with all your heart to Him and serve Him with all your heart, and the Lord will not let you down. Study and read material, written by Godly men and women to help you, especially biographies of those who have succeeded and you will find that they did so, but not always easily, but with pain and sacrifice. Talk to wise men and women in leadership and hear what they have to share on their own ministry. We all think we are the only ones going through issues in life, that are painful, but the word of God tells us that all the saints throughout the world are going through the same kind of suffering.