“The old parishes are mostly real communities, and the whole parish still often has a strong sense of connection with the parish church, reflected in the high rate of occasional offices proportionate to the population. Read more…
“The value of the parish system comes from the fact that it can reach out to all sections of the community across England. Yet, as many of your correspondents have pointed out, the parish system Read more…
CHRISTOPHER MOGER · 3 February 2022 at 12:36 pm
The purpose of the Measure is to make better provision for the cure of souls and the Mission of the Church of England is defined as pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical (paragraph 15 of the Consultation Analysis). Both are positively undermined, at any rate in rural parishes, by the increasingly aggressive reduction in the numbers of stipendiary priests. No one can hope to know and be known to parishioners – especially to those who do not attend church services regularly – when he has 5 parishes to look after as opposed to 1 or 2. No one can hope to provide a full range of Church services in 5 parishes as opposed to 1 or 2. It is of little comfort to rural parishes when considering the Mission of the Church day to day that, at Diocesan level, there is a large and enthusiastic cohort of clerical and lay staff -(cf paragraphs 25 and 26 of the Consultation Analysis). For the sake of the Mission, the whole focus of the Church must be on the Parish and the provision of a Parish Priest. It will have a beneficial effect on fund raising as well.
Eugene Organ · 25 February 2022 at 9:41 am
It’s clear to me that any view that does go against the wanted direction has been deliberately devalued as being fearful and against change. Perhaps people are fearful and angry…. Is it any wonder? Shouldn’t the response be pastoral care rather than dismissive?
Any contribution should be valued. I would have though the people reading the contributions would have been able to see pass the emotion and take the comments at face value.
I have no confidence in the assessment and analysis of the comments.
Lorna key · 3 February 2022 at 2:09 pm
The village church alongside the pub keep this small village community together. Christianity is exposed and recognised.
Molly Russell · 3 February 2022 at 2:37 pm
Having read the Consultation Analysis, I understand how important all the legal matters are, but the one consuming frustration I have, is the minimal consideration mentioned here and elsewhere, of the diminishing church attendance and Priest recruitment, both of which go hand-in-hand, especially in rural areas. That a recent survey suggesting that less that 50% of the population now consider themselves Christian, I would have thought it would have given the hierarchy pause for thought. There seems to be a deafening silence from the Church hierarchy in response to Save the Parish campaign, and, in the current circumstances feel slightly insulted by the six-part series on BBC Radio 4, called ‘The Archbishop Interviews’, to be broadcast from Feb.20th. It underlines just how far it has lost touch with its congregations.
Analyses and Reviews are necessary, I suppose, but unless the basic need for ‘a Priest in every Parish’ cannot be sustained, all else will become academic, I fear.
Molly Russell · 25 February 2022 at 4:03 pm
Further comment on GS 1312: Having read the Analysis, I find the points which stood out for me, were the following and really a repetition of my former concerns:
p6 Para18 – the lack of communication to congregations which has created the divisive sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’.
p 8 Para 26 – In the continued absence of resident priest, a different roving priest with no knowledge of parish is no substitute. (No shepherd – lost sheep)
p 15 Para 15 – Following the retirement of Bishop of Winchester, following 22 redundancies of Parish priests, with drive towards a 16 Parish Benefice , there is no local clerical leadership on behalf of the congregations.
p 20 – Diocesan Responses to G2222 – None from Winchester!!
The over-riding impression I am left with, is the bulk of the Report is taken up with all the administrative, legal and financial of the Church, with a minimum space given to the basic problem. I know I repeat the same plaint, but am saddened that the ‘Mission in Revision’ is more intent on Cathedral than Stable.
Emma Thompson · 26 February 2022 at 11:00 am
Thanks for posting, Molly. Andrew Selous MP (the CofE’s Second Estates Commissioner, who is the bridge for the Church’s accountability to Parliament, and can obtain from Church House written answers to precise written Parliamentary questions) and Chris Loder (MP for West Dorset) have both separately said that they will organise a meeting of interested MPs, in Andrew Selous’ case specifically on GS2222. May I suggest that you and other lay people in Winchester write to all the Winchester MPs, raising your concerns about the way the diocese has been managed and the impact of GS2222, and requesting them to contact Andrew Selous and Chris Loder to get involved in raising Parliamentary questions and joining meetings?
Patricia Swift · 5 February 2022 at 1:19 pm
I am greatly concerned about the apparent systematic closures of our parish churches. It became obvious that the dedication of the priest, and his/her willingness to get to know, as well as minister to the community will lead to a great increase of congregation numbers. Surely this should be the focus of efforts, not the ease of closure.
Churches are the centre of the community, not just on Sundays but every day, and to work towards closing them is an anathema to our beliefs
Mary King · 7 February 2022 at 8:44 pm
Are the Bishops going to be left with no clergy to “shepherd”? Are they doing themselves out of a job?
Paul Spensley · 25 February 2022 at 9:55 am
Would it be interesting to know what the Church Commissioners thoughts are in plain language.
They are sitting on record resources that could be used for recruiting and improving the lot of boots on the ground clergy.
Speculate to accumulate comes to mind. There may well be reason to close a small number of churches where rural population has sharply declined.
However it is surely the time now to invest as much as possible in human capital. More priests = more ability to “ shepherd and increase the flock”.
Patrick Watson · 25 February 2022 at 10:09 am
I would like to see a stop put to all but absolutely essential ‘Church House’ administration, bureaucratic activity and other froth; ditto ‘Myriad’ and all that – and the huge resources of the Church of England applied properly and effectively to that Church’s mission, which is to foster and develop the Christian faith parish by parish.
Rob Johnson · 25 February 2022 at 10:43 am
I, like many parishioners, past and present have given our heart and soul, time, talent and treasure to maintain our beautiful grade one listed building and our church hall for the benefit of our congregation and the wider community, which takes it’s name from the church. We work hard to maintain a diverse congregation which is healthy but generally not all that wealthy. We are a parish perfectly capable of running our parish without outside help. By far the biggest drain on our resources is the iniquitous Parish Share. I learnt fairly early, as a young treasurer that diocesan financial consultations were really about the diocese telling us what they were doing, how much it cost and how much we were going to pay. Being amalgamated into so called ‘Super Parishes’ will see us loose all control of our assets. The first exercise of this idea in our diocese has, by all accounts been a disaster and yet still the idea is being pursued.
Over two centuries of work maintaining the parish and its buildings, assets and community work could be taken off us by a top heavy bureaucracy with no links to, and no local knowledge of the parish. People will vote with their feet and wallets. These measures will sweep away the very foundations of the Church of England, which if allowed to proceed, will see the demise of the CoE.
Emma Thompson · 27 February 2022 at 5:24 pm
Many great comments here but I wanted to ask you please whether I could quote your views about the Parish Share in a leaflet I am writing for Deanery Synods? If you are happy with that, please let me know how you would like to be described. STP would also be glad to have a Parish Story from the parishes in your diocese where Super-Parishes have been tried and found to be wanting, if that is possible please?
Nick Perry · 25 February 2022 at 10:56 am
I’m pleased that there has been such a strong response to GS2222, and agree with many of the points made.
The fundamental issue as I see it, is what will happen to church members in cases of closure? They become like sheep without their shepherd, left to wander in search of a new enclosure. In my Diocese all the talk seems to be about plans, structures and money, not parishioners. I’m fairly confident that if our church were to close, most of our members would simply stop attending church altogether rather than worship elsewhere. There doesn’t appear to be much duty of care for parishioners in this respect, who in our church are mostly elderly and on pensions. Not that the Diocesan team have visited us to see that. Instead, they are expecting an annual share payment of £55K per annum in order to keep a weekly Service in Church and currently asking each Parish how much money can be pledged in 2022, ‘23, ‘24 and ‘25 respectively. All this after two years of pandemic during which our disposable monies have fallen sharply. Meanwhile, the Diocesan headquarters continues to employ a ‘healthy’ number of staff and we are continually reminded of the Church Commissioners’ purchase of two houses in an expensive residential area of the city, occupied at the time by two celibate archdeacons; the cost, circa £500K per house. A spokesman for the Diocese at the time appeared to offer the opinion that it was ‘ …(the price of) a modest town house for a senior member of the clergy. Meanwhile now, the parishioners ‘on the ground’ do their best to raise what resources they can in the face of an uncertain future.
Roger Knight · 25 February 2022 at 11:34 am
It occurred to me that when you have succeeded in closing the church, withdrawing the parson and selling the parsonage, all that will be left of the Church of England in many communities will be the graveyard. Highly symbolic!
Charles Dunn · 25 February 2022 at 12:15 pm
The Archbishops seem to think that they can solve any problem by pronouncing an a subject maybe political, strategic or on a personal agenda, not taking into account ,as shepherds the needs of their flock. What makes them think that they are better as politicians ?
Where is the leadership? My experience of our diocese is that the hierarchy love talking to themselves but do not mix or talk with their congregations , and actually hide from them. Actually getting to know their flock seems to be very low on their agenda. Our very rural community is very strong and involved with eachother. I noticed from the church register of services that during 1990s that our bishop visited our church 7 or 8 times, since then we have had two interregnums and if I am not wrong no visits from our bishop. Some leadership! No wonder that the church is in the state that it is in.
Sophie Law · 26 February 2022 at 9:27 am
Welby et al. fretting about Rustat and urging his removal from Jesus while allowing so many church buildings and parishes to crumble under their watch is something I find utterly repellent. A lifelong Anglican, Welby is the first Archbishop who has prompted me seriously to consider crossing the Tiber.
Helen Savage · 26 February 2022 at 5:23 pm
My MP wrote to Andrew Selous, Second Estates Church Commissioner, on my behalf with questions on GS2222. Mr Selous responded this week.
Mr Selous plans to hold a meeting soon with parliamentary colleagues with an interest in the issue, along with senior church officials to hear and discuss the concerns that have been expressed by all of us about GS2222. He will invite parliamentary colleagues who express an interest in this, so…..
PLEASE ASAP write to your MP expressing your concerns with GS2222/GS Misc 1312 and urge him/her to contact Mr Selous’s office and ask to be invited to this forthcoming meeting. Mr Selous needs to hear that there is widespread concern, and this concern needs to be expressed through your MP attending this meeting. ACT NOW!
Andrew Lane · 28 February 2022 at 10:23 am
Here in Cornwall we have the On the Way process which purportedly allows each deanery to decide on its own future. This is a mirage.
Every communication from the bishop downwards emphasises the need for ‘change’ and urges us not to seek to return to ‘an imagined past’. This is part of a much rehearsed play list.
Well funnily enough in our quite definitely real past ( up to just 7 years ago) we had a completely wonderful, dutiful priest shared over three small rural parishes. Humble, diligent, a deeply holy man he ministered wonderfully to all creeds and none. Churches were well attended and all those peripheral events of fetes, coffee mornings etc just filled the calendar. And we all paid the MMF in full.
Then, as our priest got close to retirement he was given yet another parish. Somehow he managed to dutifully serve that as well and to great effect.
When Andrew retired though we were told that that was the end of stipendiary mission and that we must join a ‘cluster of 5 other parishes ( with whom we had little in common), our rectory would be sold we would be served by our worship leaders and on occasion by an exhausted ‘flying vicar’ from 10 miles away . Fortunately we weren’t having any of this and fought like mad . We managed to save the rectory and retain a house for duty post between two parishes.
We were lucky. But nevertheless something has been broken. Most notably we do not trust the diocese or the Church as a whole. We don’t trust their judgement and we don’t trust their good faith. A little harsh some might say ? No, not so.
We had a real and not imaginery past that really worked, that was financially viable and really quite wonderful. It depended first and foremost on having a deeply dedicated priest who lived and breathed in the community. All the churches own surveys indicate that spreading priests over too many parishes leads to a decline in congregations, as does team ministery, long interregnums and so called super parishes. And yet they are ploughing on with a centralised model that is fast choking the life of parishes.
This to me looks like its driven by ideology rather than a real concern or even knowledge of the rural parish. Cash goes to Transformation Mission but none, just none, goes to small parishes.
The church must change course. It must fund some selected parishes in each diocese. Give them a priest shared over no more than two parishes in living in one of them Make sure it is a good priest and then sit back for say three years to assess the results. The Church could afford to do this and I have absolutely no doubt that it would work.
Rev. Massingberd-Mundy · 2 March 2022 at 11:26 am
The Church Commissioners Survey
The survey done that produced this report showed up a very deep concern about the future of the parish and the local parish priest. The people have a much deeper understanding that the parish priest is there to help them live their lives in a way that is in harmony with God , the creator of all, to understand his purpose for his creation and the part they can play in it as they enjoy his creation, to enable them to live in harmony under God and to know God’s love for each of them as they respond to God’s healing love in their families and their community. Respect for God and the love he has shown us in Christ which enables us to work with God in the healing and care of all his creation, are an essential part of the life and work of a Parish Priest for all the community.
To achieve this requires giving the Parish, shared, yet total responsibility, in the work that they do in obedience to God and to trust them. It cannot be run by a system to promote a cause, or gain more funds to run the system, since such systems are driven not by unconditional love or forgiveness, they are devised for control and financial viability and survival of the system. There is no room for failure, or the system being flawed, let alone to practise love and forgiveness.
Can the centre and Diocesan centres change?
Listening to what is being said by clergy and laity is an impossible task when your agenda is based on the survival of a system and to improve efficiency of the staff whose task you seek to control to make the system more efficient. To do what?. To ensure the survival of the system?
I rather fear so, since if you make God the centre of the agenda then the task of the Clergy becomes that of service and love, patience and respect for God and not that of a fundraising manager, or a systems conformer! Both of which inhibit the work of the clergy and the Laity and limit their power to trust and work together in the cure of souls, since the system undermines their ability to do so because of conformity and target setting.
You cannot expect the centre to evaluate such a report with any integrity since it will automatically look at it from its own point of view to ensure control and survival of itself and the status quo as planned.
The whole purpose of Save the Parish is to place God back in the centre of the agenda.
This means that you start from the Parish up and not from a demand at the centre down.
This is because God calls the Clergy to serve Him in the cure of souls and to love and serve him in and through our communities across the world, let alone our communities here.
It appears that the whole of God’s purpose for us in our care and healing of his creation is an unfolding process and not one of taking control and serving your own agenda. It has to conform to God’s agenda if we are going to be able to enjoy and fulfil our purpose here.
How can this happen?
!. It will never happen unless we return to God’s agenda, the rhythm of his creation and the fulfilling of his
purpose for his creation.
2. The present planning at the centre is to increase the efficiency of their systems to run the Church.
More central control is seen as the answer. Fewer clergy in the countryside, closing country churches
which they think are surplus to requirements. Fewer clergy, working to the pattern of serving the system
and not loving and serving the people. Setting up a laity driven system to raise funds where needed and a
whole number of Non-stipendiary clergy to support the working of the system, yet expected to give
supporting pastoral care, at minimal cost, but everyone is subject to annual review to ensure control, and
3. We will not get our plans right until we stop trying to organise God and telling him how we think he should
be running things. Even the disciples had moments when they tried to tell our Lord what he should or
should not do! Even after the resurrection. We know his answers.
4. We need to take on board the fact that God created all things, including us, as he appears to have
planned, so that we can respond to his love and care for his constantly unfolding creation. We have the
guidance to do this already given to us in Christ and the power of God’s love that is ever with us. We are
not digits, created by humans, to fulfil the controlling greed of humanity to serve them in whatever way
they can control to achieve their bidding.
5. Our Faith is our response to unconditional love, given to us by our creator. This means that our call is
always unfolding. It cannot be contained by our human systems and controls. We need guidance as to
how we live and work together but it is under God and not under greed or power or financial viability.
6. The most important matter is to enable our clergy to respect God and respect each other in his service
and grow in their response to God. They are called to serve God to enable the people they are called to
serve, to find God and respond to his love. We now have the gift of hindsight and can see the pattern of
God’s love and creation unfolding over the centuries. Today our mistakes and misconceptions have now
come home to roost, and shown us the destruction we are causing to his creation and hence our own
destruction as well.
7. We can change but it means we change to God’s agenda and not the one we are caught up in now.
We have the resources to do so, but it means a re-ordering of how things are done.
At the same time as we place our trust in those whom God has called to serve him.
We should improve and strengthen their training, clarify their task and ensure that the work of the clergy
lies in the community and the people they serve in obedience to God.
So each diocese has the clergy and the Parishes as head of any priority list. The Parishes are given back
responsibility for their Clergy and housing, They can be encouraged to pay the stipend and expenses of
those who serve them in the Parish. The Pension responsibility could be paid by the Church Commissioners
fund as a first charge on that fund, with further money allocated to cover any stipend shortfall, because of
real need or special planned developments. In practice it would be wise to link any specialist ministries to
the larger parishes who can pay their stipend and housing as well.
8. Administration in the Dioceses and in the Centre need a total reassessment with the clergy and the Parish being the first call on the Church Commissioners income. Perhaps CC income might also be needed to give cover for 2 or 3 years to help Dioceses re order them selves too now that they will not have to do so much
for parishes and can get no other income from parishes via a share or quota increase. Their whole remit with the centre and the Parishes will have changed completely and their admin re assessed.
9. Perhaps in this way we can get ourselves back on God’s agenda and enable people to find God again.
One thing is quite certain is that by aping the world and the pursuit of power and money no longer fits.
Amanda Vance · 7 March 2022 at 2:59 pm
Closing parish churches and concentrating on practical Christian living in the community is like draining a reservoir and expecting the network of pipes to function independently. Of themselves, pipes cannot provide water; Christians need the holy calm of churches to feed the spirit and enable them to be active for Christ in the world. Churches are reservoirs of peace, hallowed by God and the love and commitment of priests and congregations over years and centuries. Their permanence is part of their character and their gift to each transient generation as it cares for and reveres them. By feeding the spirit, parish churches inspire action. They exert an influence greater than bishops for theirs is an influence beyond personality and the ephemeral. Parish churches are like slivers of eternity in our midst. They are not ours to close but to cherish.
Mr R Lincoln · 8 March 2022 at 10:18 am
Para 32, “There is no intention to change the fundamental provisions around disposession”. Some diocesan / archdiocesan minds have already been made up and will not be changed. Are they hoping people will just get worn out and the protests wil fizzle out ?
Aiden Johnson-Hugill · 9 March 2022 at 11:29 am
Likewise, I despair at the CofE and its increasingly divorced view of the world. It seems the as if the church has inverted its priorities and now seeks to serve itself with the main objective of keeping the management structures and bureaucracy in place.
Parish Churches by their very presence are a representation of Jesus’s love in the world and in the first instance should become multi use.
Regrettably our small, local church has closed due to a maintenance issue. The crack is viewed as dangerous. I’m a Chartered Surveyor and it is not but it suits the Diocese to start the process of closure.
This process must be stopped.
Colin Snow · 13 March 2022 at 3:02 pm
90% of the financial support for the Diocese comes from Parish Share. The rural Church is the coal face that produces the finance for the Diocese to survive. In the commercial world drastic cuts are being made with head office staff and others but rarely with the sales team end, they are the coal face of the business. The Church of England does not see it that way and the team from the Diocese upwards appears to be protected from the forces that run the real world.When are we going to see some serious cuts in the top end management of the C of E? Colin Snow firstname.lastname@example.org