Developing the structures of the parish
The Anglican tradition holds at its heart a structure of authority and decision-making that holds in creative tension individual leadership (primarily that of the bishop, but at parish level the incumbent holding a license from the bishop) and the rightful involvement of lay people at all levels of vision-building and passing legislation. So at national level we have the House of Bishops, presided over by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, who sit in General Synod, which also has elected houses of clergy and laity. For most normal decisions, a simple majority of the whole Synod is the requirement. For some major decisions, a vote must be taken in each of the houses separately. For a very few really key issues, usually of doctrinal issues, the House of Bishops has special responsibilities, and changes could not be made without a clear majority of the bishops being in favour.
At diocesan level this is mirrored in Diocesan Synod and in Deanery Synod (although of course, there is no Episcopal presence in Deanery Synod); and at parish level the system is similar. Most decisions about the development of a parish should be made in the Parochial Church Council (PCC), which always includes the incumbent (and also other clergy) in its membership. On some issues - especially to do with the ordering of worship in the parish church, the incumbent has particular responsibility, but that should always be exercised in consultation with, and preferably the agreement of the PCC.
With the best will in the world, a PCC can rarely deal with all the issues that arise in a parish, especially a busy one like ours, so sub-committees are set up to look at various aspects of parish life and to advise the PCC. However such a system of participation can be quite hard to administer efficiently, and can easily become on the one hand bureaucratic and on the other just ignored by a few individuals (especially the clergy!) who want to move ahead on issues with the minimum of delay. Again, this is a real temptation in a parish like ours, where the active members are far-flung around the city, they are often busy people, and many find their fulfilment simply by being members of the worshipping community. In general, they are content to allow the clergy to get on with the ministry as they feel best, and will be supportive of what happens - at least up to a point.
The structures described above have certainly been around in this parish and many of the sub-committees have done excellent work. I am not sure however of their relationship to the PCC. I am not sure that the PCC really owns the range of activities that are promoted by the sub-committees, or that the committees are particularly responsive to the needs of the PCC. So we have agreed some streamlining to try (a) to help that two way fertilisation and (b) to encourage more people from our congregations - especially important as we continue the process of bringing two church communities together - to 'get involved' in aspects of our life that excite them!
So here is what we are proposing:
The Parochial Church Council
The PCC remains the decision-making body for the whole parish. It is vital that we have good and committed representation from both churches on this key body.
The Standing Committee
The Standing Committee, made up of the Rector, Associate Rector, Churchwardens, Vice Chairman of the PCC, Treasurer, PCC Secretary and Parish Administrator, will continue to service the PCC, and to consider issues that arise between PCC meetings.
There will then be four Main Committees:
Finance and Fabric
- With responsibility for advising the PCC on all matters to do with funding and the upkeep and use of our considerable properties (two churches, the parish centre, John Perkins House and the Parish Parlour (both at All Saints), Associate Rector's house).
- This committee will deal with all aspects of the life of our congregations; ensuring adequate care for those in need, education in faith, visiting schemes, children's work etc.
- To plan and reflect on all aspects of the worship in both churches, both the regular Sunday and weekday services and the special services that we put on from time to time. It will include representatives of the Choir, Readers, those who lead intercessions etc. (There has not been a worship committee before, and we sorely need one!)
- To work with the clergy on all aspects of our outreach into the city and local community - e.g. the Malt Cross Project, work with the rough sleepers, the asylum seekers' project, our links with overseas projects etc.
These are not exhaustive lists of tasks, but they reasonably cover most of what we are involved with as a parish one way or another. There will of course be the need to set up either permanent sub-groups or 'task groups', smaller groups that get together for specific issues - e.g. the Overseas Group may want to continue with its particular focus, but I hope that it will develop its work to include all aspects of our overseas connections, as the Mission Committee requests; or a sub-group of the Worship Committee may work for a short period on the Christmas services.
PCC members have already indicated which groups they would like to be a part of, but I would like to encourage all members of the congregation to reflect on whether they would like to be a part of one of these and so to help to mould how the life of the parish develops from here.
Please speak to me if you would like more information.