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Local councillor writes to Bishop over lack of local vicar, highlights 'damage' to community

by Kelly Valencia
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A councillor in Wednesfield, Wolverhampton has penned a letter to the Diocese of Lichfield, urging the prompt appointment of a full-time vicar to a local church that hasn't had one for nearly three years.

In correspondence addressed to the Bishop of Lichfield, Rt Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave, Wednesfield North councillor Phil Bateman expressed his concerns about the prolonged delay in the appointment.

He emphasised the potential harm to both the church and the broader community, stating that "not having that position filled can do a lot of damage to the church and the role it plays at the heart of the greater community".

"Not only is the spiritual offer diluted by no parish priest, but also the social role is very much weakened,” the letter continued.

The last time St Thomas’ Church in Wednesfield had a full-time minister fulfilling the role was in June 2021 when Rev Nick Watson left to take up a post in Manchester.

Councillor Bateman received a response from the Acting Bishop of Wolverhampton, Rt Rev Jonathan Clark, on behalf of Bishop Michael. He conveyed that the Diocese had advertised the post five times but has been unsuccessful in filling it so far.

“This is, I’m afraid, an extreme example of a problem across the whole church, where there are presently more posts available than there are priests to fill them," he said.

"I can only agree with you about the negative effects of the absence of an incumbent, and I can assure you that the diocese remains committed to ministry in inner urban areas.

“We remain hopeful the right person will be found to fill this post, and others which are, at the moment, without a priest. But it is becoming a more and more difficult process at the present time,” he continued.

Currently, services at the church are being overseen by team minister Rev Tom Fish, from St Alban’s church in Ashmore Park.

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