What is a Vicar?

Dog CollarThe term “vicar” isn’t used all that much in modern American language anymore.  Even within church denominations which have Vicars, a lot of members don’t know what a Vicar is.  So, what is a vicar?

What is a Vicar?
A vicar is basically a pastoral intern.  It’s someone serving in a vicarage assignment from the seminary.  Vicarage is typically a twelve month internship, normally occurring in the parish setting. This in-service education is required by all seminary students before graduation, ordinarily in the second year before graduation. Vicarage is, therefore, a mandated part of the seminary curriculum.  In the Specific Ministry Pastor program (SMP) vicarage is a 2 year internship instead of the normal 1 year.

What’s the Point of Vicarage?
The purpose of vicarage is to continue the theological training of the student by providing him supervised practical experience and opportunity to reflect upon that experience with a practicing pastor as mentor. Similar to internships at hospitals for future physicians, congregations thus provide a formative context for future pastors. At the same time, service is provided to the congregation in which the student is assigned. However, the primary objective is that vicarage be a learning experience for the student.  Concordia Seminary has information about vicarage here.

Within the context of the SMP program, the vicarage is particularly important as the students receive less in-class training than residential seminary students.  So, the program counts on practical “in the field” training and the guidance of the mentor pastor to make up for the lost classroom training.

Full-Time or Part-Time:
Normally, vicarage is a full-time job.  The vicar is a full-time employee of the church in which he is serving and from which he is receiving training.  In the SMP program the vicar is also, ideally, supposed to be a full-time position within the church; however, due to financial concerns, many SMP vicars have had to maintain a full-time job outside the church while also studying for classes and trying to fit in work at the church (not to mention time with their families, etc.).  This is unfortunate since for the SMP students, their vicarage is intended to help to make up for reduced time in the classroom.

For Bill and I, here at Family of Christ, we are both working full-time outside the church, while trying to fit in our studies and work at the church.  The church simply doesn’t have room in the budget, currently, to bring us on full-time at the church.  Unfortunately , this does limit the time we have to be trained and gain experience in our vicarage, but we trust that God will faithfully work to form us into the pastors He has called us to be.  That said, we are both praying that the Lord will provide a way for us to be able to serve in a full-time capacity through the support of the members of Family of Christ.

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