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.