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Church of England launches scheme to fast track retired Christians into priesthood

by Kelly Valencia

A new scheme by the Church of England is looking to utilise retired Christian's "lifetime of work experience", and gear them towards priesthood.

Run by the Church Revitalisation Trust (CR Trust), the Caleb Stream is hoping to train those in their late fifties, sixties or seventies, who feel the calling to become a priest. 

Currently, people are not usually put forward for ordination after the age of 55. 

The Stream is looking to particularly attract those who have a track record of being involved in church life for several years as churchwardens or lay ministers. 

"We are looking for those who have served the Lord faithfully over many years, those who are involved in serving and in ministry in their church contexts and have experience of much of what it will be like to be the ordained minister of a church," Sam Follett, who oversees recruitment into the ordained ministry streams at CR Trust, told Premier. 

By fast-tracking people into priesthood, the Church of England is aiming to help overstretched vicars share the load with existing members of the community. 

According to Follett, priests already rely on retired priests or lay parishioners to help them look after the congregations, as some priests have up to ten churches under their care. 

"There is an urgent need," Follett continued. "We think there are about 10,000 churches in the Church of England, that are in need of a focal minister and we want to see those churches flourishing, and being able to be cared for and overseen by a minister who can support that congregation. 

"And so we think it's right that there's a pathway that helps enable that quickly," he continued. 

It can take up to five years or longer to become an ordained priest in the Church of England. Candidates begin discussions with their priest about their intentions to become an ordained minister before going through an interview process that can last for up to two years and that it ends with the bishop recommending for ordination. 

They are then required to spend three years at theological college before being ordained, first as a deacon, and then as a priest. 

Although the Caleb Stream reduces all the process to just one year of theological training, working with St Mellitus theological college in London, candidates are still required to be put forward by their dioceses and have the backing of a bishop. 

Ten people will graduate from the Stream this year, while there are already 100 candidates to join the course for the next academic year. 

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