Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

Vanishing vicars are a good thing, says vicar Andy

1st Jun 2018

A book by a training adviser with Chelmsford Diocese claims that churches where the minister is not at the centre of church life are more Christian and successful than those where the minister has a central role.

In the preface to the book, Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell links this to being willing to be unavailable at times as Jesus was.

Reflecting on 12 years’ experience as vicar of Galleywood in Essex, author Andy Griffiths admits to refusing to visit the elderly and housebound in the village until people realised he was not the only person from the church who could do it. In time parishioners no longer looked for God just in the priest or in the church building. Instead they came to experience God as already living among them in Christ-like love, friendship and neighbourliness.

What is it like to have a "vanishing vicar"? In Galleywood people felt encouraged. They found it easier to join in the life of the church whatever their training or background. Individuals became teams that grew together as a Christian community. The love inside the church family flowed out into fostering, a foodbank, and partnership working with Citizens Advice.

When Andy became vicar of Galleywood he made God two secret vows:

“No one but Jesus will be the sun in this solar system.”

“I will never lead a service or preach a sermon here without telling people how loved, forgiven and valued by God they are.”

A big lesson he learned was when to say "No" to people and how important this is:

“When I say ‘No’ to a demand from the congregation (and I do prefer to say ‘Yes!’) I may be saving both them and me from giving glory to the wrong thing.”

Andy now trains curates for the diocese.

  • Refusing to be Indispensable – Vacating the Centre of Church Life by Revd Canon Andy Griffiths is published by Grove Books at £3.95 and is available from the Chelmsford Christian Bookshop at 10 per cent discount plus postage and packing.

Image: Andy Griffiths, Continuing Ministerial Development Adviser, Bradwell Area, Chelmsford Diocese - the Church of England in Essex and East London.