Discussions with Soberton and Newtown have continued and there has been a good feeling in those meetings of a collaborative approach to acquiring and sharing a “vicar”.  Things will not be the same as in the past for us in Hambledon, nor will they be the same for Soberton and Newtown.  We have been used to having half a vicar for a long time, but to be fair we have perhaps had the larger half.  With both Richard and Robin, their other job did not keep them busy on Sundays and we reaped the benefit of their presence and ministry for far more than half the time.  That will change as we share with other parishes, but that sharing will be fluid.  It will depend partly on the style and approach of the new priest and partly on our willingness to engage with the other parishes.  The good news is that all the paperwork has been done.  A lot has had to happen to get this far and we thank you for your patience.  An advertisement will be placed, probably in the next week or so.  Each applicant will be sent a pack of church profiles, balance sheets, a welcome letter from the parishes and covering letters from The Rural Dean and The Archdeacon.  Let us prayerfully hope that The Vicarage will be occupied sooner rather than later.

The following paragraphs are from the covering letter to applicants written by The Venerable Gavin Collins and we think give you a clear picture of where we are.

“For many years, these parishes have been 2 separate benefices, each served on a 0.5 stipend basis, Soberton together with Newtown, and Hambledon, separately, served by a Vicar who was also the Diocesan Director of Ordinands. The retirement and move to new ministry of the previous post-holders, has given us the opportunity to bring the benefices together in order to enable the formation of a full-time, whole stipend post.

As well as enabling the creation of a full-stipend post, I am delighted that the coming together of this newly expanded benefice marks the ongoing commitment to collaborative working across parishes, which is an increasing feature of the Deanery, and indeed of the wider Diocese of Portsmouth. A further reflection of this commitment to mutual support and partnership in ministry is the intention that the newly appointed Priest-in-Charge of Soberton, Newtown and Hambledon and the current Rector of the adjacent Bridge Benefice (Droxford, Meonstoke, Corhampton and Exton), the Revd. Tony Forrest, will additionally both be cross-licensed as Assistant Ministers to one another’s benefices, by way of a sign of the benefices’ shared commitment to work in “mission partnership” with one another. This is a model that we have employed in several other mission partnerships in the Diocese in recent years, and has particularly helped to ease the sense of isolation in ministry that clergy can far too often face.

I hope that as you read the Profile Pack, you will be inspired by the rich potential of this newly created post, and that you will discern God’s call to apply to come and join the team living, worshipping and serving in the heart of the Meon Archdeaconry. If appointed, you will find that you become part of some wonderfully relational communities at parish, deanery, archdeaconry and diocesan levels”.

Rachel Houlberg and Paul Foster
Church Wardens