Charles Kenyon's Country Diary: An amazing act of voluntarism by the new vicar

The rural parish of Kelsey in Lincolnshire has found someone to fill this important role despite cost-saving measures by the church, writes our columnist

There are eight churches in the Kelsey group of parishes, covering 50 square miles and about 2,800 people. For five years, there has been no vicar – a deliberate cost-saving measure by the church. Instead, kind ministers travelled in to take services locally. But the continuity in the social life of villages – harvest suppers, school visits, charity events and especially the pleasure of knowing the person who was to marry you, baptise the children and indeed be with you in your last days – was diminished.

So we were delighted to attend the licensing service of a new vicar. During the formal service with flowing robes and big chairs, the new incumbent gave his vows of service to the Queen, the bishops and the parishioners. It's a seriously big and important job.

Amazingly, though, he is not to be paid. He receives housing and basic expenses only – this seems to be the only way we can get our vicar. The role of a vicar in a rural community is much more than just turning up to take a service, so this is a truly remarkable act of volunteering and I hope he and his family are not being exploited.

When we moved here, my wife was asked if she might like to join the parochial church council. "That's very kind, of you," she said, but she had to add: "Do you know that I am Jewish?" She was told that her faith didn't really matter – the important issue was whether she could bake. The Church of England at its best – and, yes, she did join, but in a non-voting capacity.

Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen,

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