22 March 2023

For parishes on the outer edges of the diocese, finding a new priest is a challenge

Churches with vacant appointments are having difficulties finding new priests. Photo: iStock.

Maya Pilbrow

9 February 2023

Inner-city priests need to be willing to move to outer suburban churches, parish incumbency committees say.

Parishes with vacant appointments exist across the Diocese of Melbourne, but the parishes in the outer limits of the diocese have struggled especially to find suitable candidates for incumbency.

St Luke’s Cockatoo and Christ Church Geelong are two such parishes.

Read more: Clergy shortage, biblical marriage on Melbourne Synod agenda

Incumbency committee member for St Luke’s Cockatoo Mark Coulter said location was a big factor in his parish’s difficulty in finding a new incumbent.

“We’re on the very edge of Melbourne. Trying to get somebody who’s willing to move out to the sticks is more of a challenge,” he said.

As a result, he said his parish had a fairly small pool of candidates to pick from.

“There’s quite a few churches like that. We’re not the only ones in this position,” he said.

Member of the incumbency committee at Christ Church Geelong Professor Shurlee Swain said the main issue her parish faced was finding candidates willing to move to Geelong.

“The challenge in Geelong is getting clergy to cross the West Gate Bridge,” she said.

Professor Swain said many clergy had established lives in the eastern suburbs and it was difficult for them to uproot their families to serve in one of the outermost parishes in the diocese.

Read more: Unaddressed burnout, heavy workloads amid ordination shortage

Fellow Christ Church incumbency committee member Judy Munro agreed.

“These days, it has to be a family decision,” she said.

Mrs Munro said Geelong should not be viewed as a distant or undesirable place for clergy.

“The quality of life is so good here. I can’t understand why they’re not competing to get here,” she said.

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