CHURCH: A bleak view from the vicarage

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Vicars' wives think their husbands are overworked and underpaid, according to a new survey. The study of more than 100 vicars' spouses revealed the modern-day pressures on male and female priests and their families.

It concluded that most vicars work an average of more than 60 hours a week, with 25 per cent of wives believing their family relationships suffered because of the clergy workload. In addition, many wives say although they can meet day-to-day needs but cannot afford extras such as holidays or new appliances.

The survey of more than 100 ecclesiastical spouses was carried out by Susan Avis, whose husband, Paul Avis who is sub Dean of Exeter Cathedral and vicar of Stoke Canon near Exeter, Devon.

Vicars are awarded an annual stipend of around pounds 14,500, no matter how long they have served in the post. However, they do have the benefit of a free home and a non-contributory pension, which brings the package nearer to pounds 20,000 a year.

Mrs Avis said:"The survey may have given clergy spouses the chance to let off steam.

"But equally noteworthy were respondents who nonetheless counted blessings and were endeavouring to accept their difficulties cheerfully as part of their calling to follow Christ."

The Archdeacon of Exeter, the Venerable Tony Tremlett, said:"People do not go into the Church because of the money. It is not an income which allows any luxury. The clergy is expected to be all things to all people. Clearly vicars cannot do everything."