Benefice Vacancy

When your vicar retires or moves on the parish will enter a period of vacancy.  During this time the responsibilities normally borne by the Incumbent or the priest in charge are given to a number of people - principally the Rural Dean and the Churchwardens of the parishes that make up the benefice. This is called a process of sequestration and those responsible become the sequestrators. 

It is the responsibility of the sequestrators to provide services including Sunday services, baptisms, weddings and funerals, to look after the church building and monuments in the churchyard, to take care of any clergy housing and help with the appointment process for a new Priest.

Cost per Stipendary Priest

What does it cost to have a vicar in post in your parish and benefice?

Download this document for information

So you need a new Priest?

When you need to appoint a new Priest to your benefice, you will need to put together a benefice profile which shows potential candidates what your benefice is like and advertises the role to them. Watch our video which explains a little more about this process and how you can get help completing it.



Fill in the online form 

A member of the Diocesan staff team that you have expressed an interest in will arrange to visit your benefice and help you put together your benefice profile. 

An outline template for your benefice profile is available here

What happens now?

Once you have had a meeting with a Diocesan staff member, your Archdeacon will arrange to visit you.  This is an opportunity to ask any questions and for the Archdeacon to explain the whole process, including any specific legal requirements for your benefice. 

A detailed paper describing the legalities of the appointment process is available here. 


What sequestrators (Rural Dean and Churchwardens) are responsible for during the Vacancy


The Churchwardens and Rural Dean should liaise as early as possible after a vacancy is declared about the provision of services during the vacancy, in order to make the necessary arrangements. The Rural Dean is responsible on behalf of the Bishops for agreeing the appropriate pattern of services in each parish and advising the Churchwardens about the availability of retired clergy and others with permission to officiate (PTO) in the deanery.

Wherever possible, clergy who are licensed, or have PTO in the Diocese, and who live within the deanery (or its immediate neighbours), should be used in order to avoid heavy expenditure on travel. Furthermore, the Bishops, Bishop’s Chaplain, Archdeacons and members of the Cathedral Chapter are always pleased to respond to invitations to officiate if they are able to do so.

No additional services beyond the usual custom of the parish should be introduced during the vacancy without the support of the Rural Dean and the agreement of the Bishop. In some cases the number of services may have to be reduced depending on the availability of clergy.

Visiting clergy should be paid any fees or expenses due to them by your PCC Treasurer. This payment is best made monthly by cheque. However, if the payment is made in cash after the service a receipt should be obtained and care should be taken that the transaction does not result in the netting down of the collection total in the service register.

The services for which reimbursement of payment will be made to the PCC are only those authorised by the Rural Dean on behalf of the Bishop at the start of the vacancy. Payment will only be made on the following basis:

1. Retired and other clergy with Permission to Officiate A fee for each service plus a car mileage allowance as detailed on the claim form.

2. All other clergy - stipendiary and non-stipendiary and clergy licensed under seal Clergy who are licensed receive a car mileage allowance only at the rate shown on the claim form.

3. Readers Services in church conducted by a reader incur a fee which the Treasurer should pay to the Peterborough Diocesan Association of Readers on receipt of their account. No mileage allowance should be paid to the reader as the Readers' Association will reimburse the reader directly. A record of all such payments should be entered onto the claim form. These should be sent to the Diocesan Office for payment at the end of the month or quarter, via the Rural Dean who will authorise payment to be made to your PCC's Treasurer. (Please ensure that parish details are inserted clearly.) Please provide your Rural Dean with a stamped addressed envelope for this purpose. Please note that mileage allowances can normally only be paid to clergy living within a reasonable distance.


All requests for occasional offices should be referred to the Rural Dean or to the person to whom he or she has delegated the coordination of such arrangements, unless the Bishop has appointed a priest-in-charge of the benefice during the vacancy. No service in church should be arranged without the agreement of the Churchwardens. The incumbent's fee for weddings and funerals should normally be passed to the Diocese, unless the service is taken by a retired priest with PTO in which case 80% of this fee may be retained by the officiating minister. If banns of marriage are published by a reader, churchwarden or other lay person, that person should sign the banns' book, but the certificate of banns must be signed by a Clerk in Holy Orders. The incumbent's fee should be sent by the PCC Treasurer to the diocese and the balance retained by the PCC.


During a vacancy (unless a priest-in-charge has been appointed) the Rural Dean is responsible for considering all applications for churchyard memorials and for authorising those which fall within the limits of the Chancellor's Churchyard Regulations. The incumbent's element of the fee should be passed to the Diocese and the balance retained by the PCC.


Sequestrators’ help is requested in taking care of the clergy house while it is vacant, particularly in any period when the house is not occupied. It is diocesan policy to keep vacancies as short as possible and to only let houses if they are not immediately required and, otherwise, to prepare houses as swiftly as possible for occupation by a new incumbent. Parsonage houses are managed by the Property Officer and Assistant Property Officer. The Diocesan Property Officer, based at the Diocesan Office in Peterborough, will advise Churchwardens of any works which are to be carried out to a property whilst it is vacant, and will liaise directly with contractors, providing them with access. For full details see the Churchwardens duties page in our Clergy Housing section.


The Church Representation Rules make provision for the election of a lay member of the Council as its Vice-Chairman and stipulate that “during a vacancy ... the Vice Chairman shall act as Chairman and have all the powers vested in the Chairman unless the rights of presentation are suspended and a minister has been appointed by the Bishop as priest in charge”. Similar provisions apply to the Chairmanship of the Annual Parochial Meeting.

While Rural Deans are not automatically members of PCCs of vacant parishes, it is certainly helpful in view of their roles as sequestrators, if they are able, where it is appropriate and needful, to attend meetings of Councils (and the Annual Parochial Meetings) to advise on matters relating to the cure of souls in the parish. They have the Bishop's authorisation to receive copies of the minutes, and PCCs are encouraged to consider co-opting Rural Deans as members of Councils during vacancies, or, if all co-opted places are filled, to invite them to attend as non-voting members.


Details of the appointment procedures can be seen lower on this web page.

Churchwardens and Rural Deans will receive notification from the Archdeacon when an appointment is made. The Rural Dean has the responsibility for overseeing the arrangements for the service of institution, collation or licensing and will seek the assistance and co-operation of the Churchwardens in the benefice as together they make the arrangements to welcome the new priest. Appendix 4 sets out the Bishop's instructions to Rural Deans for the proper conduct of such occasions.

When an incumbent is instituted and all income received during the vacancy has been accounted for, the sequestrators' duties are complete.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that when a priest in charge is appointed the benefice remains technically vacant. However the Bishop expects the priest in charge to undertake the sequestrators duties on their behalf, particularly the receipt of the incumbent's portion of any ecclesiastical fees and the subsequent payment of these to the Diocese. As a result the duties of the sequestrators do in reality end on the day of institution, collation or licensing.

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