Pastoral Assistants are men and women working on a voluntary basis in their parishes in collaboration with others and under the direction of their Incumbent, supporting the many and varied areas of parish life. They aim to make an informed and effective contribution to the total pastoral ministry of the Church and will, in discussion with their Incumbent, formulate a specific role appropriate to the life of their parish.
Pastoral Assistants became established in the Diocese of Guildford in the 1970s when they were trained through a deanery based course organised by a lay person and a chaplain. These courses consisted of a series of talks and discussions given by a variety of invited speakers. The content and presentation differed from deanery to deanery and from year to year depending on the preference of the organisers.
The system was reviewed in the 1980s and continuing discussion resulted in a working party being convened by Archdeacon John Went. After wide consultation, a paper was presented to the Diocesan Synod in November 1991, which led to the establishment of an Archdeaconry based training course using common material. The course was further refined in the mid 1990s, with the adoption of more formalised selection, assessment and recognition procedures. At this time, it became a diocesan based course. In 2007, it became possible, but not compulsory, to follow a pathway through and beyond the basic training to achieve a University Certificate, initially with Bangor University but now with Oxford Brookes University.
The Administrative Secretary is responsible for managing all the paperwork connected with the application, selection and training process and for keeping PA records up to date.
Selection for Training
Anybody who thinks they have a calling to be a Pastoral Assistant must test that vocation by having the support of their Incumbent and PCC. Candidates who come for selection should be:
- over 21
- active and communicant members of the Church of England
- mature, stable Christians with a certain amount of experience
- flexible in approach
- able to be sensitive to problems presented to them
- people without severe problems of their own and not recently bereaved
- willing to learn through the training
- people who have been carefully chosen by their Incumbents, who are acceptable to their PCCs, and who will work co-operatively as part of a team
A short application form is completed by the candidate and a statement in support of the application is made by the Incumbent. The PCC passes a resolution in support and the Incumbent and the candidate make an application to the Senior Course Tutor who will interview prospective candidates. Enhanced DBS disclosure is required. The PCC will be responsible for paying the costs of the course.
The course is also open to ecumenical partners by agreement with the relevant Church body.
The Foundation Course training is delivered by the Senior Tutor for PA training and her team. Students need to be free of most parochial commitments and in regular contact with their Incumbent, who will provide primary support and who needs to be aware of the content of the course and the candidate's progress.
The course incorporates education in theory, training in skills and formation of the person. There are general and specific components which cover listening skills and spiritual growth, with a choice of topics such as Marriage, Singleness, Faith Development, Teenagers, Under 11s, Under 5s, the teminally ill, depression and mental health, unemployment etc
There is evening and afternoon provision for the one year course (including a Residential Weekend), which begins in September. 95% attendance is required.
Subject to satisfactory completion of the course, the Senior Tutor recommends to the Bishop the names of the successful candidates who then receive authorisation from the Diocese at an annual service in July. This is followed by a commissioning in their parish. A Pastoral Assistant is commissioned, in the first instance, to serve for a four year term of office, after which it can be extended by mutual agreement with the Incumbent. It is important to notify the Secretary when a person ceases to be a Pastoral Assistant. Before being commissioned, the PA will complete and agree a Job Description with the Incumbent and this will be revised at each annual review.
Ministry and Continuing Ministerial Development
It is most important that the time and effort to train is recognised and that the Pastoral Assistants are used (but not over-worked) in their parishes, and that regular supervision and planning meetings are arranged by their Incumbent. PCCs should also be prepared to fund further short training courses in the future, as necessary.
It is expected that PA's will continue to develop their learning and that new areas of pastoral work will be undertaken. As this will sometimes require new skills, a variety of in-service training opportunities will be organised throughout the Diocese by the CMD officer for PAs (advertised through the PA Newsletter and on the website). An annual Training Day is organised, which all PAs are expected to attend. The Pastoral Assistant will also be required to complete an annual Return Form, giving indications about their work. This will be returned to the Secretary as directed.
PAs have access to other diocesan provision for training and may attend appropriate CMD days advertised within the Diocese.
Incumbents are responsible for conducting annual review/appraisal and there will be a 5 yearly review initiated by the Department.