May 2, 2017

Summertime Supply Priests

As summer approaches and throughout the year, one of the major issues that church leaders face is how to find a clergy person to fill in for Sunday services if the priest is unavailable. This issue is more pervasive for congregations in transition but is equally stressful for congregations with full-time clergy when it is time for vacation, sabbatical or the clergy is ill. The stakes are even higher if the need for clergy is on a high Holy Day such as Easter or Christmas. One of the most important activity for anyone with this responsibility is to plan in advance especially with the current clergy avoiding the last minute panic.

Though not always fruitful, there are resources to tap into to find a clergy replacement. The most common is the supply list provided by the diocese which is generally available on the diocesan website. These folks are in high demand so it is also good practice to review the supply list for neighboring dioceses as these clergy may be in a reasonable travelling distance. Another source is retired clergy, they may not be on the supply list so it is important to know the clergy who are in the surrounding neighborhood. An alternate source are clergy who work on staff at the diocesan or national levels, or at seminaries, colleges or other secular jobs. They have more flexibility on Sundays but a relationship has to be maintained for them to give up a day off to support the congregation.

Visiting clergy from other areas of the country or outside of the immediate area or internationally is also a popular option. If the congregation is located near a “tourist attraction” trading Sundays for a vacation destination is a win for everyone especially if there is a rectory or place to stay that will entice the individual or their family. These clergy are mostly known to your current priest so collaborative planning with the clergy for their replacement is optimal.

Not to be forgotten, deacon and lay led services are an option worth exploring. Most important is that churches maintain ongoing relationships with clergy as extended members of their congregation. This is good pastoral outreach and will more readily yield a willing supporter when the need arises.