FAQs relating to pastoral matters

I have received a letter from the Pastoral Secretary – do I need to do anything?

The Pastoral Secretary is required by law to consult with clergy, PCCs (via the PCC Secretary) and Churchwardens on a number of pastoral matters. The letter will set out what you need to do, as it will vary depending on what it relates to.

If you are a PCC Secretary, you should ensure that the PCC is made aware of the contents of the letter, and that the matter is discussed at the next PCC meeting.

If the PCC wishes to comment or object, you should let the Pastoral Secretary know. PCC Secretaries are also required to display the statutory public notices for proposed Pastoral Schemes and Orders – the Pastoral Secretary will have provided instructions as to what you will need to do in each case.

Churchwardens will be sent copies of notices of suspension of presentation, which they will need to display at their churches for a 28-day period. If in doubt, do contact the Pastoral Secretary!

Our benefice has a long name which lists all the parishes. We have agreed a shorter name that we use on the magazine and benefice paperwork, can we make it legal?

If all the PCCs have agreed, it is very simple to change the benefice name by a Pastoral Order under the Pastoral Measure, using a shortened consultation procedure.

Parish names can also be changed in this way. Please contact your Archdeacon or the Pastoral Secretary if you wish to do this.

In our multi-parish benefice the PCCs all discuss the same topics, is there a better way of doing things so that there are fewer meetings and it is easier to work together on matters of common interest?

The PCCs can resolve to form a Joint PCC (sometimes known as "the Benefice Council") by a Scheme under the Church Representation Rules (CRR).

The JPCC can deal with all matters of common interest, reducing the workload on the individual PCCs. A model CRR scheme may be obtained from the Pastoral Secretary.

We have heard that a new mission post is being created in our area, under a Bishops Mission Order; what does this mean?

A Bishops Mission Order (BMO) enables the Bishop to affirm mission initiatives that foster a new and distinctive Christian community (likely to be a “fresh expression of church”).

It may include a number of parishes and ecumenical partners, for example a BMO could be made for collaborative work between several parishes.

Who does what during the vacancy and where can we obtain advice and help?

There is a Vacancy Pack for churchwardens of parishes that are in a vacancy. Please contact your Archdeacon for more information.

A neighbour has asked to buy a small part of the churchyard; there are no burials in the area. Is this OK?

Part of a churchyard may be sold following a Pastoral Scheme to appropriate the land for another use (e.g. as a garden) and remove the legal effects of consecration.

There will usually be a joint valuation and the purchaser will pay the legal costs and an administrative charge. The proceeds of sale will be vested in the Board of Finance but may be released for capital purposes in the parish.

There are five parish churches in our benefice. One is in a very small village, and the congregation would prefer to travel to the next village most Sundays to be part of a larger worshipping community. We don't want to close the church. What can we do?

The status of a church may be changed by a Pastoral Scheme designating it as a Chapel of Ease. A Chapel of Ease is consecrated and does not have churchwardens, but it may have "Deputy Wardens", nor are there the same requirements for regular Sunday worship.

Chapels of Ease need not be licensed for marriages although many of those that were previously parish churches are. If there is no other church in the parish the Pastoral Scheme may also unite the parish with one of its neighbours.

The PCC of the new united parish may form a local church committee as a sub-committee of the PCC to look after purely local issues for the Chapel of Ease (e.g cleaning, grass cutting).

One of the parish churches in our benefice has a tiny congregation of older people who have given a lifetime of support. Sadly, they are no longer able to continue as churchwardens or parish officers. We may have to close the church; what would happen?

If requested to do so by the PCC, the Diocesan Mission and Pastoral Committee (DMPC, acting through the Archdeaconry Mission and Pastoral Committees (ADMPC)) will publish proposals to close the church for regular public worship; usually the proposals will also unite the parish with one of its neighbours.

There will be a new PCC for the united parish. When a church is closed for regular public worship it will pass into the ownership of the Diocesan Board of Finance, and the Closed Churches Uses Committee (a sub-committee of the DMPC) will be responsible for its care whilst an alternative use is sought.