Wednesday, April 23, 2014

AT A recent school careers fair, one stall stood apart. Its attendant touted a job that involves 60-hour weeks, including weekends, and pays £24,000 ($40,000) a year. Despite her unpromising pitch, the young vicar drew a crowd.

God’s work is growing more difficult. Attendance on Sundays is falling; church coffers are emptying. Yet more young Britons are choosing to be priests. In 2013 the Church of England started training 113 20-somethings—the most for two decades (although still too few to replace retirees). The number of new trainees for the Roman Catholic priesthood in England and Wales has almost doubled since 2003, with 63 starting in 2012, and their average age has fallen.

Church recruiters have fought hard for this. Plummeting numbers of budding Catholic priests in the 1990s underlined the need for a new approach, says Christopher Jamison, a senior monk. The Church of England used to favour applicants with a few years’ experience in other professions. Now it sees that “youth and vitality are huge assets”, says Liz Boughton, who works for the church.

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