What is a vicar?

Last night at the Concordia Seminary (St. Louis) Call Day, Seminarian Kyle Will, one of our alumni, received his vicarage placement to the Lutheran Church of Vestavia Hills in Alabama, just outside of Birmingham. Pastor Jay was a vicar in Gainesville FL, where he met Liz and first tried his hand at campus ministry work. Rev. Adam Douthwaite, another one of our alumni, did his vicarage in Carbondale IL, and is now a pastor in Texas.

But what is a vicar? Let’s start with the word itself. The word vicar means someone who stands in for another. In the church of England, the vicar stands in for the Bishop, making him something of a Vice-Bishop. If you’ve been joining PJ in watching “The Young Pope”, you have perhaps heard that in Roman Catholic theology the Pope is the “vicar of Christ”, the person who stands in for Jesus.

The person that Kyle will be “standing in” for will be called his “bishop”, but unlike the use of that term in other churches, that bishop does not preside over a large number of churches in a given area. Kyle’s bishop will simply be the pastor of the Lutheran Church of Vestavia Hills, but Kyle will be “standing in” the authority of his bishop in order to learn how to do ministry. It’s like an internship, or perhaps better yet, an apprenticeship.

Normally, in American Lutheran churches, vicarage happens after two years of academic work at a seminary. The vicarage lasts for a fully year, and then the vicar returns to the seminary for a final year of academic work. In some cases, there are alternate arrangements made where a vicar takes three years of academic work and then a “convertible” vicarage (not meaning one with the top down). This is the case for a vicar in our area(Albany GA), Vicar Doug Hudson, who will be “Rev. Doug Hudson” when we ordain him this summer. Additionally, another nearby Lutheran church in our area, Our Redeemer in Lake City, will receive as her pastor, a traditional student (2 academic + 1 vicarage + 1 academic) this summer as well, Seminarian Stephen Fair.

Please join us in praying for Kyle Will, Doug Hudson, Stephen Fair, and all those who received vicarage assignments and calls into ministry this past week. As we continue our series on the 7 marks of the Church, we will learn that having the office of pastor is a mark of the church. We thank God for calling these people in to ministry, and we rejoice in their vocations.