Following calls for change from Rural Deans across the Diocese of Truro, the Bishop’s Diocesan Council this week approved plans to recruit three new Deans.

These new posts are aimed at supporting parish clergy and will be funded from diocesan reserves and national funds; ensuring parishes do not face further financial burden.

Over the last 12 months Rural Deans have clearly and consistently said that their role is not manageable in its current format. Expecting clergy who have demanding ministries to give a day a week, and often more, to responsibilities outside their own parishes is often detrimental to their wellbeing and to the life of their own church communities.

Welcomed by Rural Deans

Chris McQuillen-Wright, former Rural Dean for Pydar, said: “Establishing the office of an area Dean to undertake the existing role of Rural Dean plus leading on Change and Renewal has been welcomed by everyone who is, or has previously been, a Rural Dean.

“The variety and complexity of working as a parish priest in a multi-parish setting is well documented. Many Rural Deans were also running the bigger benefices and while this was managed it was not sustainable.

“I see it that this role will enable parish priests to remain in the parish. It will release some pressure on the Archdeacons allowing them to focus on their ministry, and parishes will gain the benefit of being led into the new future.  It is a plan that will provide an engaging, supportive collaborative future.”

The new Deans will be known locally and will be crucial in providing clergy support, working with parishes in transition, leading the process of recruiting to vacant clergy posts and in implementing deanery plans.

This new approach follows a wide consultation process with the clergy in the diocese, current and former Rural Deans, other dioceses, and the national church.

Ben Morgan Lundie, Priest-in-Charge for the Parishes of Looe, Morval, Duloe and Herodsfoot and Rural Dean for West Wivelshire Deanery, said: “As the Rural Dean for West Wivelshire, I really welcome the diocese’s bold vision to resource and restructure the role of Rural Dean and to recruit the three new Deans for the Eastern, Western and Central Areas.

“I took on the role in March this year and was licensed in May.  It is a privilege and pleasure to serve the deanery and the diocese in this way, but it is a significant addition to my workload.  This is partly because the Rural Deans work with their Archdeacon to share information about parishes and benefices under their care.  We also play an important role in the pastoral care of the clergy.  With parishes in vacancy there are also incumbent duties that Rural Deans carry out, and this year I have taken additional services, weddings, and funerals in parishes outside of my own.  With vacancies, we are also involved in the recruitment and interview process which is strategically important and takes time to do properly.

“Rural Deans also have a strategic role in the implementing the Deanery Plan, guiding and shaping it for all the parishes.  All of these Rural Dean activities take time and energy away from the ministry and mission that I lead in my own parishes. The real focus for the transformation of parish life happens on the ground and with the people in the communities under my care.  Working alongside and collaborating with a new Dean will mean that I have more time to nurture leadership in others and create opportunities to make a difference in the Looe Valley Benefice.”

Investing in deaneries

The Venerable Kelly Betteridge, Archdeacon of Bodmin, said: “I am delighted that we are investing in our deaneries through the creation of three new posts. It will enable parish clergy to focus in a more intentional way on what they are called to be and do without the added burden of deanery-wide responsibilities. It will add extra capacity at a local level, and it will give to each deanery extra support and leadership to make deanery plans a reality.”

These full time Deans, each responsible for three or four deaneries, will replace the previous system of 12 Rural Deans juggling their parish responsibilities with deanery wide demands giving them more time and energy for mission and ministry, as well as giving more support directly to church communities.

Once appointed, the Deans will be known as the Dean for the Western Area (Penwith, Carnmarth North, Carnmarth South and Powder), Dean for the Central Area (Pydar, St Austell and Trigg Minor & Bodmin) and Dean for the Eastern Area (Stratton, Trigg Major and West Wivelshire).

Kerrier and East Wivelshire both included a full time Rural Dean in their deanery plan, and to honour the integrity of these local plans, those posts will remain in place, working with the three new Deans.

The new roles will carry all the legal responsibilities of a Rural Dean, will play a key role in deanery plan implementation, will support parishes and benefices with the practical and relational work of change and will provide clergy and lay leaders will practical and pastoral support. They will work closely together under the leadership of the Archdeacons, and each will exercise a ministry of word and sacrament in their deaneries.

The Rt Revd Hugh Nelson, Acting Diocesan Bishop, said: “These roles will help parishes and clergy across Cornwall to grow in faith, numbers, and service to their communities. I am praying for lots of applications from faithful priests, who are curious about what God is doing in Cornwall and are committed to the life of the church in this diocese.”

It is hoped the new Deans will in post by March 2024.