The pay structure in the Diocese of Huron, of which I am a member, is based upon years of service. Simply put, the more years of service as an ordained clergy, the higher the stipend. A new or relative new clergy will make between 32 300 and 34 800 a year. Meanwhile, for example, a senior clergy with 30 or 35 years experience will make 47 800 and 50 800 respectively.
This cost is born by the individual congregation. Couple this with housing cost, either through a rectory (the house beside the church where the priest lives) or an housing allowance at a rate of 40% of the clergy’s stipend, in conjunction with things like EI, CPP and all other deductions, the cost of a clergy person can rise dramatically.
Smaller congregations, whether rural or city, often have a difficult time keeping senior clergy due to high salary cost. As a result the practice in the diocese is to go to a starter parish, which can afford a 0-3 year level clergy and then the clergy moves on. The trajectory is for senior clergy to end up in larger city parishes while junior clergy are in small parishes, often rural.
This communicates two things to me. One, rural parish are seen to be not as important as the city parishes and two, this is not in line with the strategic plan of the Diocese of Huron to place the right clergy in the right place to encourage growth and renewal.
Financial constraints will:
Of course there are many other criticism to be leveled at this system, or any system for that matter. It is easy to say you are doing it wrong, without offering a new way of doing things. So to that end, I have a modest proposal, which I am sure others will criticize, and in the end I hope they do for that would mean we are having an honest conversation about the needs of the church.
In times of crisis management must centralize. It is safe to say, the church is in crisis. Let us say there are 88 parishes in Huron with approximately 100 employed clergy. Years of service will vary, but it would be safe to assume that medium years of service would be in the range 10-13 years.
If the total cost of clergy was pooled and then equally apportioned out to each parish, then each parish would be paying the same for their clergy. This would put clergy cost for each parish at the same amount, roughly between 37 500 to 38 900. This would have the net effect of being able to send the right clergy to the right location, which could include a clergy with 30 years experience to a rural multi point parish.
To make this system fair, the total cost of clergy would have to be calculated upon minimum stipend only. If a parishes wishes to pay a clergy more, then that is to be negotiated between the individual clergy and the parish and the additional cost born by that parish alone.
It is true that this would put a burden on smaller parishes that may not be able to carry this additional cost on the short term. But with the right person in the right place, growth and renewal will come. It also demonstrates that the rural and small city parishes are not starter parishes who live in constant fear of their clergy leaving, but rather can build strong, vibrant relationships with their clergy, participate in missional activities and get back to growing the Kingdom of God.