Perhaps the Church of England is awaiting divine intervention, but 14 months since Colin Boswell retired as the Vicar of Croydon, and no replacement has yet been named, never mind taken up the post.
Canon Boswell had given sterling service as the Vicar of Croydon at Croydon Minster for 21 years when he stood down from one of the most senior church roles in the borough in June 2016.
Boswell was a well-known and significant figure in the community, with responsibilities around the Whitgift independent schools and a key role in seeing the parish church in Old Town elevated to its status as a Minster. The job might be considered as a plum appointment for an ambitious churchman (or woman), and comes with a four-bedroom vicarage in South Croydon.
Sources in the church suggest that one cause of the indefinite delay is that an appointment for the role had been made, but the job offer was abruptly withdrawn, and that this has prompted at least a threat of legal action from the disappointed candidate. Unless or until that situation is resolved, the position has to remain unfilled.
As it was, a second round of interviews was conducted, with a panel including the Minster’s church wardens – lay members of the congregation. This was after the first set of interviews failed to identify a suitable candidate.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwark declined to deny this chain of events, saying only, “The recruitment process for Croydon Minster is ongoing.”
And a job ad for the position can still be found on the Minster’s website, almost a year and a half since Canon Boswell first aired thoughts of his retirement.
“The staff know nothing,” Inside Croydon was told this morning. “We are just told that it’s an on-going process.”
The absence of a Vicar of Croydon has meant that there was no Civic Service during Councillor Wayne Lawlor’s year as Mayor, and – as yet – nothing is planned for this year’s Mayor, Toni Letts. The Civic Service is usually one of the major set-pieces in the Town Hall’s annual calendar, when the great and not-so-good from around the borough gather at the Minster.
“They’re a godless bunch at the Town Hall as it is,” one Katharine Street source said today on the grounds of strict anonymity in case of any lightning bolts, “and they need all the help from above that they can get.”
The lack of an appointment to this key position has also had knock-on effects in neighbouring CofE parishes.
Rev Wealands Bell is leaving St Andrew’s in South Croydon after three busy years working hard in the local community, to take up a position in Oxford. The vacancy which that creates cannot be addressed until the Minster situation is resolved. This uncertainty, and the constant struggle for congregations, has led to suggestions that that church may not have a new vicar appointed at all and other uses will be found for the recently refurbished buildings.
In the absence of any divine intervention, meanwhile, Canon Boswell is, by the day, looking as if he is irreplaceable.
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