Ebbsfleet Chrism Mass 2018 Sermon

Posted on the 3rd Apr 2018 in the category Resources

Ebbsfleet Regional Chrism Masses

Bath, Exeter and Lichfield:  Holy Week 2018



From the Song of the Three Young Men, v.62: ‘Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.’


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


Each year for the past four I have spoken in this celebration about the oils from which this celebration takes its name:  oils that are signs of the Holy Spirit’s action in our journey of faith.  This year I want to speak more directly to the priests and deacons who today also recommit themselves in apostolic service.


It is said (and well said) that this Eucharist reveals, it makes visible, the communion of presbyters as co-workers with their bishop.   It is an opportunity to renew among us the joy of communion, and to show ourselves ready to deepen it.  So in this short homily I want to reflect on the foundations of this communion.


Before embarking, I want to express my immense gratitude for all of you, for the many signs of the communion which already flourishes among us, and for the desire that many of you express for it to become more fruitful.  I want also to recollect in this moment all the sick or burdened priests I have visited in the last few months, or who have written to me in advance of today, to express my admiration for the great dignity and the spirit of faith with which they live often difficult trials of health, personal opposition, or suffering.  And I also think of the priests who died this year, who in their last months summed up lives fully offered to the Lord, and no doubt purified by trials.  


It is easy for us to forget that today’s liturgy — which can seem rather busy with special ceremonies — happens at a precise moment.  It serves not only as a preparation for, but also as an orientation to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening, and thus to the whole Paschal Mystery beyond, which is the true basis of our communion as priests.


There are these days many motives, positive and negative, for us to cultivate a deeper fraternity.  Positively, we want to show that we are ready and committed to the proclamation of faith, the work of prayer, and service within and beyond the Church.  There is an increasing desire among us to strengthen friendships, so as to be able to support each other in offering to Christ a fuller consecration, and to the Church a less divided self.  Less positively perhaps, we look to one-another for greater solidarity both in the face of our society’s increasingly cautious or critical attitude to the clergy, and mindful of the scale of its anxieties and divisions.  Torn between the sheer variety of activities and expectations, many priests become drained;  they take fewer opportunities for the prayerful recollection that would give them new energy and inspiration.  Externally stretched and interiorly drained, it is easy to lose the joy of a vocation which feels to be an increasing burden.


But all these reasons, whether positive and negative, are all external reasons to seek solidarity.  If we entrust our ministries to them for motivation, we will not take the necessary long-term and lasting action.  I want you therefore to reflect with me me now (and pray with me through the coming days) on the true origin of our communion as presbyters and deacons, a communion in the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ, made present in the Eucharist.


It is the Paschal Mystery that is the ultimate root of our communion — and our spirituality — as priests.  We are included in it through the baptism which we share with all our brothers and sisters;  and then, by the prayer and the laying-on of the bishop’s hands, we are given the grace and authority to preside at its celebration in the Eucharist.  The eucharistic gathering is the ‘Church simpliciter’:  that is, it the Church in its purest, simplest, most complete act.  In the Eucharist, the Church draws on what is deepest in its life, and lives out its identity.  In it, in other words, the prayer of Christ becomes our prayer;  the word and gospel of Christ becomes our word and gospel;  the life and spirit of Christ becomes our life and spirit in the sacramental gifts.  Our ministry has its culmination in praising God at the head of this assembly which is one in Jesus, who was consecrated with anointing for the life of the world (as our first and third readings reminded us) and is alive in his Church’s offering (as our second reminded us).  That is what gives strength, unity and joy to our ministry.  It is by penetrating ever deeper into that mystery by our prayer and service, not by strategizing about our institutional problems, that we shall strengthen our presbyteral communion with one another.  And if our communion with one another is strengthened, then our mission is surely strengthened.


It is in relation to this vision of the eucharistic Church as the context of our teaching that the Scriptures find their primacy, in the same sense as when the risen Lord lifted the hearts of the Emmaus disciples, he used what was said about him in the Scriptures to prepare them to recognize him in the breaking of the bread and, then, to announce to his brothers the victory of life over death.


The same is true of the personal and contemplative dimensions of our prayer.  Both find not only their highpoint but also fresh resources in the Eucharist.  We ought not to trivialize our weaknesses and difficulties in personal prayer (see Rom 8.26):  the clergy do not have any special gifts in this area!  We all know and experience that prayer is a very hard task, but it is sustained and supported by our eucharistic prayer;  and if our personal and contemplative prayer is flagging, it may be at least in part because of a lack of connection to the Eucharist.  Priestly spirituality is a eucharistic spirituality.  The two realities (both personal prayer and liturgical prayer) must flow into and out of one another, mutually reinforcing.


And so too, all other essential features of the Church.  The whole of her vocation to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and our part in it — her proclamation, invitation, catechesis, witness, mission;  the various forms of service, closeness to the poor;  even issues of discipline and institutional collaboration — all have their centre and goal in the liturgical assembly.


All of this should remind us, then, that the liturgical life of the parish must be cultivated by any means possible in the hearts and habits of parish communities.  It is crucial that the parish community’s sense of itself, and the reality of both mutual service and outward-facing service, should flourish above all in the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist.


Now, in part I have focused our thoughts in this way so as to be able to underline that we who are trying to shape a collective contribution to the Church of England through The Society (and no doubt others also) have a job on our hands.  Many varieties of Christian practice are spreading in the world at present in which eucharistic practice is not obviously central, and eucharistic theology is very slender.  There are parts of our own Anglican family and our own church in which the Eucharist appears to have slipped away from its central place.  We urgently need to remind ourselves both why and how it is that the Eucharist defines what kind of body the Church is.  We need to discover why it is that some forms of Christianity which are very popular do not have the Eucharist as central to their practice in any form, and engage with them.  We need to understand and live the Eucharist far deeper ourselves, and to share any wisdom that God has given us.


I hope that these few words have helped to recall again, on the brink of the Paschal Triduum, that the foundation of our communion as co-workers for the Lord is not in the present strategies of our church life, nor in our response to the difficulties we face, not even in our desire to be better equipped for service, but in the eucharistic assembly celebrating the Paschal Mystery.  Today we ask God to protect that communion, because its ultimate goal is in the heavenly liturgy, where Christ sits at the right hand of God, towards which we move as pilgrims.  Until that moment, and looking to that moment, our communion in faith, in liturgical and personal prayer, in pastoral service, and in fraternal friendship, will be the support and the comfort of all our perseverance.

Chrism Mass Sermon 2018

Ebbsfleet Chrism Mass 2017 Sermon

Posted on the 13th Apr 2017 in the category Resources

Ebbsfleet Regional Chrism Masses, Holy Week 2017

Bristol, Exeter and Lichfield Cathedrals




Normally at this celebration we read from St Luke’s account of Jesus appearing in the synagogue in Nazareth and reading the prophecy we have just heard from Isaiah:  ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me’.  But this morning we’re scrolling back a little: back to the Jordan just after the baptism, and turning to listen to St John. 


St John always seems to have a different story to tell.  In the other Gospels the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus at his baptism to enable his mighty acts.  But St John talks about the Holy Spirit rather differently.  He doesn’t tell the story of Jesus’s baptism like the other gospel writers;  instead John the Baptist gives us a ‘witness statement’ about it.  And in that statement, it is said (uniquely in St John’s gospel) that the Spirit not only descended on Jesus but remained on him (Gk, emeinen: Jn 1.32).


Read the passage carefully and it becomes obvious that this is the central fact of John the Baptist’s evidence.  The Spirit did not just visit Jesus but remained with him, and that is precisely how John the Baptist knew that Jesus truly was the one he’d been looking for.


This is how John sets out his evidence:

  • ·         ‘I knew someone greater than me would follow me, but I didn’t know who it would be.  I baptized with water, you see, so that he would be revealed.’ (v.31)
  • ·         ‘The one who sent me to baptize with water had said, “When you see the Spirit coming down and resting on someone, that someone is the person who will baptize with the Spirit.”’ (v.33)
  • ·         ‘And I did see it:  I saw the Spirit coming down, like a dove out of heaven, and resting on him.’ (v.32)
  • ·         ‘I can only tell you what I saw.  But that’s how I know he is the servant and lamb of God.’ (v.34)


In John’s Gospel the Spirit does not come upon Jesus for a specific task or a special moment, as with the prophets and other spirit-anointed people of the Old Testament.  Jesus becomes the unique dwelling place of the Spirit.  The Spirit stayed with him permanently and filled him with all the potential (all the dynamis) of God’s wisdom and action and presence.


And there’s more.  A little later in John’s Gospel, in Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus, this sense of the Spirit’s permanence is expanded by a sense of the Spirit’s abundance.  The Spirit is given to Jesus ‘without measure’ (Gk ek metrou: Jn 3.34).  Jesus bears the Holy Spirit in a permanent and inexhaustible way. 


All of that is wrapped up in St John’s distinctively different allusion. St Basil the Great says that the Spirit was Jesus’s ‘inseparable companion in everything … every activity of Christ was unfolded in the presence of the Holy Spirit’.[1]  Jesus’s ministry simply cannot be explained without the presence and power of the manifold gifts of the Spirit. 




All of this is, if you like, ‘poured into’ the Chrism oil from which this Eucharist takes its name, the complex perfumed oil which, in a sacramental way, will be used as a sign of the permanent and inexhaustible presence of the Holy Spirit – who is not only the inseparable companion of Jesus, but who becomes the inseparable companion of all those who are baptised and confirmed into Christ’s risen body – that is, of course, you and me.  Another great Christian author, this time a modern Anglican, Austin Farrer, talking about confirmation, says, ‘the unity we have with Christ, both in receiving baptism and afterwards by standing by it, brings down on us the very blessing and the very Spirit he received.  In so far as we are in Christ we are filled with Holy Spirit and the Father’s good pleasure rests on us;  infinite Love delights in us.’[2]


Christ’s relationship with his Father (Jn 17.10) has been enlarged to include us.  The eternal relationships between Father Son and Spirit have become our home, our identity.  At all times Christ accompanies us to his Father with our prayer and our praise, our penitence and our pain, whenever we wish, and whenever we need.  This is our home, because it’s where Christ and the Spirit dwell, permanently and abundantly.  And at this time of the Christian year, as we approach the Paschal three days, it’s especially important to be reminded these things do not change whatever difficulties and turmoil, whatever ‘sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity’ we may be experiencing.  Regardless of turmoil or failure or suffering, or even death, the permanent and inexhaustible presence of the Holy Spirit kept Christ faithful to his Father and to us;  and he keeps us faithful to too. 


We find ourselves, of course, reflecting on these things in the midst of confusions and tensions in our church after Bishop Philip North’s withdrawal as bishop of Sheffield, made more acute by those who seek to sharpen the divisions in our life together.  In such a situation—whatever is now being done to minimize damage, to heal hurts, or to strengthen mission—we need to trust the unshakable faithfulness of Christ and the strengthening power of the Spirit.




In one of his sermons St Bernard has something to say about such situations of turmoil, and the doubt and vulnerability that they create.  He says, ‘I have sinned a great sin, and my conscience is like mud all stirred up;  yet I’m not unsteady (not shaky) because I am mindful of the Lord’s wounds.’[3]  And he goes on to say that the Lord’s wounds are like places he can hide in, like the cleft in the rock for Elijah, a safe place to hide until the storm passes. 


Why, I wonder, might St Bernard refer to the Lord’s wounds in this way?  I think that the answer lies in another surprisingly different feature of St John’s gospel, concerning the Holy Spirit.


All the way through John’s Gospel there is a mounting sense of expectation. The Spirit, who we’ve been emphatically told remains permanently and abundantly with Jesus, nevertheless can’t be given to the disciples because Jesus had ‘not yet been glorified’.  Even at the Last Supper, Jesus had to explain, ‘I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Comforter who will never leave you – the Spirit of truth.’  Then, three days later, when the great climactic moment of the Resurrection arrives, and Jesus that same evening bursts through the locked doors where his friends are, he does three things: 

  • ·         he greets them with the peace of the new creation,
  • ·         he shows them the angry wounds in his hands and side,
  • ·         and immediately he breathes on them saying ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. 

There’s no hanging around fifty days for Pentecost with St John.


It’s clear that it’s only when Jesus’s body has been broken and lifted up on the cross—only after, in St John’s words, he’s been ‘glorified’—that the Spirit is free to stream out of his wounds and flood the lives of those around him.  Without that failure and darkness, without those open wounds, the Spirit could not be shared.  But after that darkness, from those wounds, the Holy Spirit ‘pours out for us to drink’ says St Paul (1 Cor 12.13):  from those wounds flows the baptismal flood that brings into our lives the permanent and abundant life of the Spirit.


It’s as if the surface of our achievement, our specialness and attractiveness, has to be wounded before the Spirit can truly create holiness and communion between the followers of Christ.  So not for the first time, our faith is revealed in a paradox:  we experience the Holy Spirit most deeply not in strength and achievement and being successful Christians;  but in moments of loss, times when we suddenly feel vulnerable and out of our depth.  Even when those bitter moments of hostility or betrayal arise within the body of the Church, through those wounds, into that need, the Holy Spirit flows.  And in that situation, as St Bernard suggests, though our consciences are ‘like mud all stirred up’;  yet we are not unsteady because we are mindful of the Lord’s wounds, and the Spirit that flows from them. 


‘Deep in thy wounds Lord, hide and shelter me

So shall I never, never part from thee.’


Having drunk of the everlasting, inexhaustible and renewing Spirit of Jesus—in this as in every Eucharist—we shall be able go out and overflow, in our words and our actions, in acts of compassion and service, because our own lives have been broken open and filled by God.



[1] On the Holy Spirit, xvi.39

[2]  A Triple Victory: Christ's temptations according to St Matthew (London, 1965)

[3]Peccavi peccatum grande, turbabitur conscientia, sed non perturbabitur, quoniara vulnerum Domini recordabor.’ (Sermon 61.3, On the Song of Songs)

Chrism Masses

Posted on the 14th Mar 2014 in the category Resources

The Bishop writes:


Having begun our annual pilgrimage towards the celebration of Our Lord's death and resurrection, I send my love and greetings to you all the clergy and people of the Ebbsfleet episcopal area, and my prayers that this season will bring us closer to the reality of Christ's love and self-giving for us, so that, being drawn closer to his cross, we shall be more open to the Holy Spirit enabling us to share that love in the world.  


It is a journey that finds its goal, as always, in the precious celebrations of Holy Week, among them the Chrism Mass when all the clergy – serving and retired – gather to renew their promise to serve Christ and his people, and the holy oils that we shall use in the coming year are blessed.  I hope very much that, despite the travel involved, we’ll ‘not neglect to meet together, but gather to encourage one another’ (Hebr 10.25) and celebrate the priestly service of the whole Church.”


Three Chrism Masses are being prepared:


at Bristol Cathedral (by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter)

on Saturday 12 April, at 12.00 noon


at Birmingham Cathedral (by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter)

on Tuesday 15 April, at 11.30 am


at St Peter’s, Plymouth

on Wednesday 16 April, at 7.00 pm

Ebbsfleet Daily Prayer Cycle

Posted on the 31st Dec 2013 in the category Resources

Thankful always in every prayer


New Ebbsfleet 2014 Daily Prayer Cycle


In a book about prayer, one of today’s leading bishops of the Church of Greece (Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpatkos) says, “It is necessary that we live in Christ, the Word of God, and become Christ and the Word of God by grace.  This is achieved when we live in the Church and participate in its holy mysteries ...”


Living in the Church and participating in its holy mysteries leads us to understand that prayer is the heart of all we do and are; and that we never pray alone. First because it is always Christ who prays in us, second because the ‘great cloud’ of his witnesses – the saints – are praying with us and for us, and third because we always pray in fellowship with all others in whom Christ prays. 


As the Ebbsfleet people and priests, aware of our own calling to be saints sharing in this noble task of prayer, by which in union with the Bishop we exercise our love support for each other and our service of the world, may the following words of St Paul, which express the unity which is formed between us as we pray for each other, encourage us to pray for each other daily:


“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:3—6)


Whether it is used in public worship or in private devotions – or in both! – it is hoped that this cycle of prayer will keep us all, clergy and laity alike, daily aware of each other.


Fr Ross Northing SSC, Stony Stratford

Epiphany 2014


Please on the link below to download your copy.

Ebbsfleet Daily Prayer Cycle

Advice to Churchwardens during a Parish Vacancy

Posted on the 22nd Nov 2013 in the category Resources

Churchwardens & the Vacancy in the Benefice: Notes by the Hon Sir John Owen DCL LLM, lately Dean of the Arches, one of Her Majesty's Justices in the High Court, and a Churchwarden.

1. How does a vacancy come about?

A vacancy in benefice may occur through the death of the incumbent; by his resignation; by exchange (with consent of the respective patrons and Bishops); by cession (usually preferment/promotion); by deprivation; by compulsory retirement or by declaration of avoidance made by the Bishop after a serious breakdown in the pastoral relationship between the incumbent and the parishioners, caused by one or either or both over a substantial period.

2. What happens during a vacancy?

A. Churchwardens, together with the Rural Dean, become Sequestrators, i.e. trustees of the income and property of the benefice. 
This happens automatically (C. of E. Miscellaneous Provisions Measure 1992). The Bishop may appoint one other person as an additional sequestrator if he considers this desirable. Under sequestration, the income of the parish church is ordered to be taken by the sequestrators and applied as required in the circumstances. Generally, nowadays the income received by the sequestrators is confined to marriage, burial and other fees, since, by virtue of the Endowments and Glebe Measure 1976 other income is paid directly to the diocese and an annuity or augmentation paid to each incumbent so long as he has the cure of souls. A vacancy brings these payments to an end until restored to the new incumbent.

B. Priests-in-charge. 
Whenever a benefice is under sequestration, the Bishop has power to license a minister to be the priest-in-charge for so long as the sequestration continues. However, it is not usually considered necessary to license a priest-in-charge for the comparatively short interval which normally elapses between the vacation of a benefice by one incumbent and the admission of the next. Nevertheless, in recent years appointments of priests-in-charge have become much more common than formerly, partly because it sometimes takes time to find a suitable new incumbent owing to a shortage of clergy but principally because of the increasing exercise by diocesan Bishops of their power under section 67 of the Pastoral Measure [1983] to suspend presentations to benefices. The exercise of this power will be appropriate when a pastoral scheme for reorganisation is in mind. Some other occasions will be harder to justify. In general, a priest-in-charge has the same duties as an incumbent, as regards the convening and chairing of meetings of parishioners (for the appointment of churchwardens), of parochial church meetings and of meetings of the PCC etc.
Only the Bishop may require a priest-in-charge to reside in the parsonage house.

C. Expenses
The Bishop has power to determine the amount of remuneration to be paid out of diocesan funds for the performance of occasional ecclesiastical duties during a vacancy and where any such duty is performed by a person, other than a person in Holy Orders, the person to whom the remuneration is paid. If the Bishop makes such a determination it is binding on the sequestrators subject to the approval of the Bishop - who may have delegated to the Archdeacon – and the Sequestrators may, out of the income of the benefice, make provision for:
a. the proper care and custody of the house of residence of the benefice if any,
b. the upkeep of any garden, orchard or other land belonging to or occupied with such house of residence,
c .the remuneration payable in respect of any professional assistance.

D. A vacancy does not relieve Churchwardens of any duties or responsibilities.
Churchwardens, albeit first Parish Officers, are also Bishop’s Officers which entitles them to seek help from the Bishop and his staff, but more importantly, they remain representatives of the Parish as a whole. They continue to be required “to use their best endeavors by example and precept, to encourage the parishioners in the practice of the true religion” and to promote unity and peace among the parishioners.

They continue to have responsibility to ensure the necessary steps are taken when a Faculty is required.

Although the books belong to the P.C.C. and should be in the custody of the incumbent, the Churchwardens have custody of the Church Registers during a vacancy. This may well necessitate ascertaining the whereabouts of these books and taking physical possession of them. Leaving them in the church would probably be a breach of duty.

In the absence of an incumbent, it is likely that the responsibility for ensuring that visiting clergy are available for the church services held in the church will fall initially on the Churchwardens although both the P.C.C. and the diocese may well be involved. If the Churchwardens have difficulty they should seek help from the diocese although normally the Rural Dean, as a fellow sequestrator should be able to resolve difficulties. Churchwardens should ensure that visiting clergy sign the service book.

Churchwardens should ensure that the necessary arrangements are made with visiting clergy to provide for the choice of hymns etc.

Churchwardens should take custody of the Parson’s keys. Any separate church hall is likely to be the property of the P.C.C. and under its control although the building will probably be vested in the Diocesan Authority. If the incumbent has managed the hall as Chairman of the P.C.C., the Council will have to make arrangements. A hall or room integral with the Church is likely to be part of the freehold and during a vacancy will be under the control of the Churchwardens and not the council. The faculty authorising such use will make the position clear.

Although the freehold of the Church and churchyard is normally vested in the incumbent, possession of both is vested jointly in the incumbent and Churchwardens jointly. This fact requires the Churchwardens to prevent entry to the Church by any person claiming to enter for any purpose not authorised by law. A vacancy might suggest to burglars that there would be easy pickings in the Church.

If an incumbent dies and there is a parsonage house attached to the benefice, his widow may continue to reside in the house for two calendar months, presumably, the widower of an incumbent would have a similar right. The sequestrators will need to ensure that the parsonage house remains insured, especially if vacant.

Under Canon F15 it is the duty of Churchwardens to maintain order in the Church and Churchyard especially during Divine Worship. Although they may remove persons disturbing or clearly intending to disturb a service provided that they use no more force than is necessary it would be wiser, whether there is a vacancy or not, to seek help from the Police.

It may be that the annual meeting of parishioners (often still called the Vestry) and the annual parochial church meeting become due in a vacancy. In such circumstances, there being no Minister, the Churchwardens should convene the first meeting and sign the notice stating the date, time and place etc. (Churchwardens Measure 2001), and the Vice-Chairman or Secretary of the Council or some person authorised by the Council should sign the second notice. Although the Churchwardens and such person are required to make these arrangements, the Chairman of the Meeting will in each case be chosen by the meeting.

If, when a vacancy occurs, there is in the parish a licensed curate, he or she continues in office. Churchwardens should appreciate that for the curate, the vacancy may present new problems and will certainly involve a much-increased workload.

3. Selection of new incumbent
· When a benefice becomes vacant other than through the resignation of the incumbent, the Churchwardens must inform the Bishop and the Registered Patron.

· Patronage is the right to present to a benefice. Each diocesan registry should have a register of Patrons. All transfers should be recorded. In general terms the right to make a presentation occurs when a benefice becomes vacant, but before that can happen there are many procedural requirements.
Churchwardens should not be put off by this statement. They can obtain advice from the diocese and no doubt the Rural Dean will give guidance.

· When the Bishop becomes aware of a vacancy or an impending vacancy, he is to give notice of that fact to the designated officer of the diocese - very possibly the Diocesan Registrar will be that officer, or the Secretary of the Diocesan Pastoral Committee.

· The designated officer shall give notice of the vacancy to the secretary of the P.C.C. belonging to the benefice and to the registered Patron.

· If he wishes to exercise his rights – and he should - the Patron is required to act in accordance with the terms of the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986.

· Occasionally a Bishop or a designated officer has been known not to act in this matter as speedily as he should. This results in time consuming and unnecessary delay, which, in the light of the tight schedule which the 1986 Measure imposes, is to be avoided. The process of selection and presentation has to be completed within 9 months beginning with the date on which the benefice becomes vacant. Time can become a pressing consideration if the parish representatives or the Bishop exercise a veto or the Patron submits an appeal for review to the Archbishop of the province.

“Section 11 Meetings” of the Selection Process

Within 4 weeks of the secretary of the P.C.C. receiving notice of the vacancy the P.C.C. shall hold one or more meetings in order to:

a) prepare a statement (sometimes called a Section 11 Statement) describing the conditions, needs and traditions of the parish. Clergy seeking a benefice will no doubt decide whether they are still interested in the vacancy only after considering this statement, which should be regarded by the P.C.C. and the Churchwardens as of the utmost importance. The statement will need to include a collective view on whether or not the P.C.C. would accept a woman as incumbent or priest in charge of the benefice or as the minister who presides at or celebrates Holy Communion or pronounces absolution in the parish. The secretary must send a copy of this statement ‘as soon as practicable’ to the registered Patron and, unless the Bishop is the registered Patron, to the Bishop. If the P.C.C. would not accept a woman priest the P.C.C. should pass resolutions A&B from Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993, failing which, neither of the P.C.C. representatives may reject solely on the grounds that the suggested incumbent is a woman;

b) appoint 2 lay members to the P.C.C. to act as representatives of the council in connection with the selection new incumbent. No doubt the Churchwardens may be the 2 representatives but there is no requirement that this should be so. It is important that the lay members, whilst not delegates, are to be representatives of the P.C.C. and not only of their own views;

c) decide whether to ask the Patron to advertise the vacancy. If so it would seem appropriate for the P.C.C. to offer to pay the cost. The two representatives would make known to the Patron the views of the P.C.C.. Either representative may do exercise a veto of any proposed candidate for the vacancy;

d) decide whether to request a joint meeting (i.e. a “Section 12 meeting”) with the Patron and the Bishop to exchange views on the Section 11 statement. The Bishop or the Patron may also request such a meeting, even if the P.C.C. makes no such request, but only if the request is made within 10 days of receiving a copy of the S11 statement. If requested, the meeting must be held within 6 weeks of the request. At least 14 days notice must be given of the time and place of the meeting;

e) decide whether to request from the Bishop a statement describing, in relation to the benefice, the needs of the diocese and the wider interest of the Church.

Meetings Generally

It is in the interests of all parties to build up and maintain trust and open relationships and mutual respect between the Bishop, Archdeacon, Rural Dean and Lay Chairman of the Deanery Synod, all of whom must be invited if there is to be a Section 12 meeting, the parish representatives and the Patron. Patrons are sometimes unknown to the Churchwardens and members of the P.C.C. and a Section 12 meeting may provide an opportunity to remedy this. Such a meeting may well be difficult especially as the P.C.C. will be without the guidance of their previous incumbent - neither he nor his spouse may attend such a meeting. It is common practice for the Rural Dean, Archdeacon, or even the suffragan Bishop to attend meetings (and they have no right to attend Section 11 meetings) assume the chair and, for good or ill, take over the proceedings. This is illegal at Section 11 meetings and at Section 12 meetings. When even the Bishop will be present at a Section 12 meeting, it is still for the whole body of persons present to choose a chairman. At ordinary P.C.C. meetings no one other than members of the council may attend unless invited by the council itself to do so; and then they may be invited only to speak but not to vote or preside. The P.C.C. and the lay Vice-Chairman should remember that it is their meeting and act with firmness and courtesy.

It is said that some parishes, having passed resolutions A & B under the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1983, have nevertheless had pressure brought upon them to reverse those decisions. If those resolutions still represent the will of the P.C.C. it should stand firm against such pressure. 
Where a candidate is turned down, requests for further advertisements again may suggest reimbursement of additional costs to the Patron; but in any event neither the P.C.C. nor the chosen representatives have any way of insisting that their views are accepted.

Even when the Patron has decided to whom he wishes to offer the benefice, he cannot make the offer without the approval of the Bishop and the P.C.C. representatives (the veto of one representative is sufficient to prevent the appointment). The Patron sends them a notice (Form 36 or 37) requesting their approval. If the Bishop wishes to refuse, he must do so by notice within 4 weeks from the date that the notice was sent. If the P.C.C. representatives or either of them wish to refuse, the notice of refusal must be sent within 2 weeks of the notice being sent. The representatives use form 37 and must give reasons for refusal. If the presenting Patron, within the time limits laid down, receives no communication, approval is deemed to have been given.

The Measure does not give any clear indication of the grounds on which a veto may be made. It is thought that even in the case of the Bishop they need not be such as would justify his refusal to institute the priest in question. It has been suggested that for example the Bishop or the P.C.C. representatives could withhold consent i.e. veto if the priest failed to meet some important requirement in the P.C.C. statement or the Bishop’s statement, particularly if the Bishop and the P.C.C. are agreed on that requirement. Another possible ground might be that the Bishop or the P.C.C. representatives feel that the priest’s personality makes him unsuitable for the parish and unlikely to be able to minister effectively in it. As already stated, unless a parish has passed resolutions A & B (see above) neither representative may reject solely on the grounds that the Patron’s presentee is a woman.

On receiving a refusal i.e. veto from either the Bishop or the parish representatives, the Patron may lodge a request to the Archbishop of the province to review the matter. The Archbishop is required to give his reasons for his decision in writing and to send copies to the Patron, the Diocesan Bishop and the P.C.C. Representatives. If the Archbishop authorizes the Patron to make an offer to the priest concerned he may do so.

It is comforting to know that little use has been made of this procedure. It seems that marital status cannot provide grounds for veto, which would be sustained on appeal to the Archbishop. Nor can race or age, although this last point may be of great importance to a P.C.C. as may marital status.

4. Presentation of new incumbent.
On receiving from a priest under the age of seventy an acceptance of an offer of the benefice, the Patron sends notice to the Bishop, presenting the priest to him for admission to the benefice and the end of the vacancy. Even at this stage difficulties may occur.

5. Admission is by institution.
A Bishop may refuse to institute i.e. refuse to admit to the cure of souls of a parish as the incumbent, a presentee in the following circumstances:
a) if there was a change of Patron in the year preceding the vacancy
b) if not more than 3 years have passed since the presentee was made deacon
c) if the presentee is unfit through physical or mental infirmity or incapacity, serious pecuniary embarrassment or scandal concerning his moral character.
d) if he has knowingly been a party to a transaction related to the presentation, which is invalid.
e) if the presentee has fewer than three years experience as a full time parochial minister.

Both the Patron and the presentee have a right of appeal against a Bishop’s refusal to institute. The appeal is to the Archbishop of the province sitting with the Dean of Arches or Auditor of the Chancery Court of York (the same person). There is no appeal from this tribunal. Objections by the Bishop at this stage are very unlikely to occur. However should a churchwarden for example have grounds for believing that the presentee is unfit as described in (c) above, he or she should inform the Bishop. Of a Bishop’s officer no less should be expected.

Before the incumbent is instituted notice of the Bishop’s intention to admit must be sent to the secretary of the PCC at least three weeks in advance and affixed to the church door, where it must remain for two weeks and the presentee must take the declaration of assent and take the oaths of allegiance and of canonical obedience. The churchwardens should ensure that the notice is displayed.

6. Induction
The incumbent is put into possession of the temporalities of the benefice by induction, which is performed by the Archdeacon on the Bishop’s mandate or sometimes by the Rural Dean as the Archdeacon’s deputy, and on his mandate. In practice, institution and induction take place at a service held at the parish church. Induction should always be after institution.
Subject only to the rights given in law to the Bishop and his officers, (e.g., the right of the Bishop in person to officiate or preach; the Faculty Jurisdiction of the Chancellor or Archdeacon; Visitation, &c.) once in possession of the benefice the incumbent has in it the exclusive duty of ministering and the exclusive rights to the emoluments of the benefice.

7. Temptation
With presentation, institution and induction churchwardens may be tempted to sit back and let the new incumbent get on with it: This temptation should be resisted.


These notes were first published by the English Clergy Association, and are reproduced here with thanks. More useful information for Churchwardens and Private Patrons can be found on the Association's website at www.clergyassoc.co.uk




  Records 1 to 5 of 8