Church of England lifts 400-year-old rule on mandatory Sunday services

I'm hoping some of our friends in the C of E can tell us about this story. Is this a portent of lean times? A practical solution to the situation as it exists on the ground? Changing agéd rules made in different circumstances to accommodate contemporary reality?

In short, big deal, or no big deal?
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Comments

  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited February 24
    Here's a take from someone known to the Ship: BBC article a few days ago:
    The Bishop of Willesden - the Right Reverend Pete Broadbent - chairs the Simplification Task Force formed in 2014 to improve the process of the Church of England.

    He said changing the law reflected the current practice of priests who look after multiple churches.

    Following the vote, he said: "You're meant to get a dispensation from the bishop - this just changes the rules to make it easier for people to do what they're already doing. It stops the bureaucracy.

    "This was just one (amendment) where we said, 'Out of date, doesn't work, we're operating differently in the countryside now, therefore let's find a way of making it work.'"

    When asked if the decision would affect elderly churchgoers in rural locations, who might have to travel further to attend a service, Rev Broadbent said: "No, because at the moment this is already regularised and it's already happening."

    So according to him, no big deal.
  • So, changing the official rules to match what's really happening on the ground.
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited February 24
    Not an Anglican, but the headline caught my eye when it first came out on the BBC, I read the article, and thought "media hype", so, yes, I think so.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Yes. I think it’s in the ‘nothing to see, move along please category’. It was already possible to do, it just needed formal dispensation from the bishop. Now that requirement has been removed.

    The Church of England’s own account says
    Existing legislation had required that Morning and Evening Prayer be said each day in every church and Holy Communion be held each week in every church.

    Under the new legislation, the same services need only need be held in one church within a benefice, at the same regularity.

    This normalises the already widespread practice of services moving from church to church within a benefice on consecutive days and weeks.

    Such arrangements had previously required special dispensation from a bishop, which will no longer be required.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    And in England, there would be another church within a few kms where a service was being held, particularly within the same benefice.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Yes. Probably within 30kms.
  • Just regularising what's already been happening for decades. Who ever seriously thought that team ministries with more than say four or five parishes and maybe only one priest, could have weekly Sunday eucharists? Let alone the seven or eight+ joint benefices relying on readers, deacons-in-training and lay worship groups. It's completely ordinary for numerous churches in those circumstances to have one parish communion per month; even just the one service - communion or not - per month, come to that, depending on staff. Too many bloody buildings.
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    Question: Are Anglican priests required to conduct all services? May lay people lead morning or evening prayer services? I know a couple of Episcopal priests from California who volunteer service to rural, Arctic Alaskan missions where practically all the weekly services are lead by laypeople because there probably isn't a priest within five hundred miles. And since the communities have no roads in, the priests come in by plane like everyone and everything else. The purpose of the visiting priests is to provide baptisms and Eucharists and, if requested, religious marriage ceremonies.

    Technically, lay Episcopalians may conduct morning and evening prayer and compline but they probably need to be authorized to preach.
  • Those parishes will be keeping going with lay support leading morning prayer, evening prayer and other services. It is the Eucharistic services that get complicated. Some of the lay support will be licensed to preach and/or administer communion by extension (it's how old people's homes get covered locally).
  • Only priests are allowed to preside at the Eucharist, and to baptise (those being the two sacraments commanded by Jesus) but authorised lay ministers can and do lead all other services in the C of E. Weddings need a registrar, which is why the incumbent usually leads them as their post includes this. Only Licensed Ministers, ie those theologically trained, can preach as a rule, but others can do so occasionally if invited to.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Ordained Church of England clergy can all function as registrars for weddings in Church of England licensed buildings ‘according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England’ - not just the incumbent of the parish/benefice.
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Only priests are allowed to preside at the Eucharist, and to baptise (those being the two sacraments commanded by Jesus) but authorised lay ministers can and do lead all other services in the C of E. Weddings need a registrar, which is why the incumbent usually leads them as their post includes this. Only Licensed Ministers, ie those theologically trained, can preach as a rule, but others can do so occasionally if invited to.

    Lay people may preside and administer a baptism? Here a layperson may do an emergency baptism in the field (danger of death to the convert, and the baptism needs to be later registered with a church in the diocese). Regular Episcopal church conducted baptisms require clergy like a deacon, priest or bishop.
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    Ooops! You already said only priests are allowed to baptize, and of course bishops are also priests.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    CofE deacons can baptise.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Technically they can also conduct weddings although there is clear guidance that it is good practice not to ask them to.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    Deacons can't officially bless. But any baptized Christian can baptize in case of an emergency.
  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    Deacons can't officially bless. But any baptized Christian can baptize in case of an emergency.

    All can bless - depends on how you read the bible of course and interpret your rules. It really needs a bit of lateral thinking around the concept of ordination and calling - you could then have a more flexible set up.
  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    Deacons can't officially bless. But any baptized Christian can baptize in case of an emergency.

    Yes bizarre isn't it? As a confirmed believer the CofE will recognise me baptising anyone in extremis as long as I follow a Trinitarian formula. They won't though accept my ordination as a Baptist Minister even though I trained alongside Anglicans.

    I can save through baptism in their eyes but I can't preside at communion. We've come to a pretty pass haven't we with this kind of stuff?

    Time to reclaim the real idea of ordination in the sense of calling and equipping. You'll then have enough people to cover way more services than keeping it to a trained elite.
  • My church is part of a formal "ecumenical area" so I think I would be able to preside at Communion in our parish church. I know that the URC minister has.

    Nevertheless I agree with EM's comments (well, you'd expect me to, wouldn't you!) We need to face up to the fact that we are ministering and worshiping in a vastly different world to that of say 50 years ago. This requires us to be flexible, imaginative and above all outward-looking - things which many "traditional" or "mainstream" churches aren't good at. We might see the CofE's recent announcement as evidence of retrenchment and decline, in fact we'd be silly to regard it as anything else. But it also represents a nod to honest reality, and another one to simplifying structures so that new initiatives may freely bloom.

    (As an aside, the "new churches" tend to be looked on with a great deal of disfavour on these boards. But, whether one likes them or not, it cannot be denied that they are attracting a demographic which few of our other churches are doing. We may shudder at their entreprenurial spirit, wince at their theology and feel that they embrace contemporary culture rather than challenging it ... but they are clearly doing something right and do not always deserve the criticisms heaped upon them).
  • I may have mentioned before that in Malta many attend Mass on Saturday evening, making Sunday a free day for family stuff and sport. The "promenading" after Mass is something to see.

  • (As an aside, the "new churches" tend to be looked on with a great deal of disfavour on these boards. But, whether one likes them or not, it cannot be denied that they are attracting a demographic which few of our other churches are doing. We may shudder at their entreprenurial spirit, wince at their theology and feel that they embrace contemporary culture rather than challenging it ... but they are clearly doing something right and do not always deserve the criticisms heaped upon them).

    When my 19 year old daughter was home at Christmas she was pretty disparaging about the church I serve which has loved her and nurtured her for years. She attends a new church in Edin Hugh, and is fervent in her faith. We managed to have a good discussion in the end about certain things (why we have an offering and why it is not a collection, the merits of corporate prayer etc.). And I told her that the established denominations are going through a crisis out of which they cannot (should not) emerge unchanged. But I am called to these villages and these people. Her new church generation will, I hope pick up the baton that my mainly elderly congregation will relinquish when they go to their reward, and if I find it too hard to adapt to their new ways, I certainly will stand at the side cheering them on.
  • kmannkmann Shipmate
    The reasoning behind this is, as far as I know, to accommodate for the reality on the ground. Some vicars have close to twenty parishes, and would have to ask permission not to celebrate twenty masses, or do twenty services, every Sunday.
  • In a sense, the CofE has to make the choice between (a) having services every Sunday in some churches, and closing others completely; and (b) having services in every church but not necessarily weekly. Given the attachment of many villages to their churches and the desire to maintain at least a token presence in as many places as possible, they have gone for (b) which I think is right. (What is does not do, though, is decide how the legacy of so many ancient buildings will be decently maintained).

    The situation in cities is different, especially where there has been significant demographic change or where the multiplicity of churches may be down to long-distant Anglican party politics.
  • Time to reclaim the real idea of ordination in the sense of calling and equipping. You'll then have enough people to cover way more services than keeping it to a trained elite.

    What is the difference between "equipping" and "training"?

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    In a sense, the CofE has to make the choice between (a) having services every Sunday in some churches, and closing others completely; and (b) having services in every church but not necessarily weekly.<snip>
    Although another possibility is, assuming there are enough people to gather for worship, to enable them to do so without an ordained person or a Reader (aka Licensed Local Minister) being present. Support them for DIY worship.
  • Indeed, and in many (most?) C of E dioceses the Churchwardens are authorised to lead Morning or Evening Prayer, should no Blue-Scarfed Menace or other Licensed Lay Minister (or whatever) be on hand.

    So a little village church with only a handful of people attending could still be open for worship every Sunday, but with Holy Communion on perhaps just one Sunday a month, or less frequently if push came to shove, so to speak.

    The late +Michael Perham advocated this more than 30 years ago, making the point that, whatever the form of service, the time should be the same each week wherever possible. He also recommended the use of the same lectionary each week (BCP or the modern equivalent - ASB back then!) for the sake of continuity.

    AIUI, the use of Communion by Extension depends on the attitude of the Diocesan Bishop - ours, for instance, really only approves in cases of emergency (e.g. a priest suddenly becoming ill or otherwise hindered from celebrating), and even these occasions have to be notified to his Chaplain asap. Ours is not a rural Diocese, so we don't have many multi-church benefices (I can think of one with 3 churches, and another with 4, but I think that's the maximum).

  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Surrounding my parish church are three benefices, all in vacancy. That means around 17 churches are struggling to hold services, led by retired clergy or lay readers. Not easy but they are coping well enough.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Cathscats wrote: »
    Tangent Alert

    ...why we have an offering and why it is not a collection, ...
    Why is that? It's not a doctrinal distinction I've met.
  • I remain somewhat bewildered that people speak of multi-parish benefices with large numbers of churches as a recent phenomenon. My grandfather was vicar to 12 churches in Lincolnshire from the late 60s to the early 90s. My understanding is that he did the BCP Communion in 45 minutes and then drove like the clappers to fit in 2 or possibly 3 more services before lunch.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    Cathscats wrote: »
    Tangent Alert

    ...why we have an offering and why it is not a collection, ...
    Why is that? It's not a doctrinal distinction I've met.
    I have. What I have heard said is that "offering" suggests something that is voluntary and, to at least some extent, sacrificial (in the sense of offering what is given to God), while "collection" sounds like taking up what is due and lacks the sense of, well, offering to God.

  • I remain somewhat bewildered that people speak of multi-parish benefices with large numbers of churches as a recent phenomenon. My grandfather was vicar to 12 churches in Lincolnshire from the late 60s to the early 90s. My understanding is that he did the BCP Communion in 45 minutes and then drove like the clappers to fit in 2 or possibly 3 more services before lunch.

    Quite so. Nothing new at all, and Synod is just catching up officially with what has been the reality for many years. My earlier reference to +Michael Perham, and his suggestions regarding multi-church benefices, harks back to about 1980.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    Cathscats wrote: »
    Tangent Alert

    ...why we have an offering and why it is not a collection, ...
    Why is that? It's not a doctrinal distinction I've met.

    The way I make a distinction in my mind (and this is sort of just me, not something I remember being taught) is that when the money people give, in whatever way, is dedicated to God during worship that is an offering. It is part of our worship of God offered in a tangible way. When people are given an opportunity to give but it is not dedicated, that is a collection and is on a par with other kinds of fund raising. Good, necessary, but not part of our corporate worship.
  • In a sense, the CofE has to make the choice between (a) having services every Sunday in some churches, and closing others completely; and (b) having services in every church but not necessarily weekly. Given the attachment of many villages to their churches and the desire to maintain at least a token presence in as many places as possible, they have gone for (b) which I think is right. (What is does not do, though, is decide how the legacy of so many ancient buildings will be decently maintained).

    The situation in cities is different, especially where there has been significant demographic change or where the multiplicity of churches may be down to long-distant Anglican party politics.

    Ah, but don't forget that God has a say too. The Holy Spirit seems to be doing a grand job of increasing focal ministry around the country. People, lay and ordained, are coming forward to focus on one church and its parishioners, to great effect.
  • ExclamationMarkExclamationMark Shipmate
    edited February 27
    kmann wrote: »
    The reasoning behind this is, as far as I know, to accommodate for the reality on the ground. Some vicars have close to twenty parishes, and would have to ask permission not to celebrate twenty masses, or do twenty services, every Sunday.
    We're questioning theology and biblical interpretation on all sorts of levels at the moment: why not question the practices of the church? The CofE's actions are based on the premise that only a recognised (ordained) person can take a service -- if we see that this might be done by any gifted individual not just one who's been through a college mill, then you could still have a service in most churches on most Sundays. You simply won't have someone with a fancy collar every week
  • Time to reclaim the real idea of ordination in the sense of calling and equipping. You'll then have enough people to cover way more services than keeping it to a trained elite.

    What is the difference between "equipping" and "training"?

    God equips (gifts). Man trains (sharpens and develops the gift).
  • The CofE's actions are based on the premise that only a recognised (ordained) person can take a service.
    Surely that's not true: certainly a Reader (and possibly anyone) can conduct a Service of the Word, although I'm sure their liberty to do so will vary between benefices. What you do need an ordained person for is to preside at the Eucharist - and not only Anglicans would say that! However we Baptists take a different line.

  • Yes, any lay person can lead Morning or Evening prayer in the CofE - I've done so regularly. We arranged teams to do this, with people coming and going as they were available. Eucharist and sacramental services require ordained ministers.
  • kmann wrote: »
    The reasoning behind this is, as far as I know, to accommodate for the reality on the ground. Some vicars have close to twenty parishes, and would have to ask permission not to celebrate twenty masses, or do twenty services, every Sunday.
    All fine, but the point to be made is that TPTB* claim a person can find a service of Morning or Evening Prayer within easy reach if their own church doesn't have one - and that simply isn't true.

    For example, with the exception of our local cathedral, out church is the only one in our part of the diocese that has Morning Prayer on a Sunday (only once a month) and the only one in the entire deanery where MP and EP are said in public daily - and that is provided by a rota of lay people because the house-for-duty PP doesn't "do" the offices as a rule (!). None of the deaneries that border us have a church where either of the offices is said publicly on a regular basis.

    Now can anyone tell me how to square that with Canon C24 1 and 2?

    *the-powers-that-be
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    The change in the legislation is in not requiring the bishop’s permission to dispense with the requirement for a communion service in each church in a benefice every Sunday, and the requirement for the incumbent to provide for morning and evening prayer to be said in each church every day.

    It already was, and continues to be possible for non-Eucharistic services to be led (and indeed daily morning and evening prayer to be said in each church in the benefice) by suitable people ordained or not as decided at a parish level, and even for a suitable person ordained or not to preach occasionally.

    If, however, someone is going to minister the word regularly, or to minister the sacraments, they are expected to go through a process which engages the wider church, beyond a single minister or congregation, so that the process of discerning their calling to preach and/or to minister the sacraments includes diocesan and sometimes national processes, and the expectation of a significant commitment to sharpen and develop their gifts.

  • kmann wrote: »
    The reasoning behind this is, as far as I know, to accommodate for the reality on the ground. Some vicars have close to twenty parishes, and would have to ask permission not to celebrate twenty masses, or do twenty services, every Sunday.
    We're questioning theology and biblical interpretation on all sorts of levels at the moment: why not question the practices of the church? The CofE's actions are based on the premise that only a recognised (ordained) person can take a service -- if we see that this might be done by any gifted individual not just one who's been through a college mill, then you could still have a service in most churches on most Sundays. You simply won't have someone with a fancy collar every week

    While this is a CoE practice thread, I might add that lots of Canadian churches have been sustained by services led by lay catechists, or readers, and often for extended periods (two to three years at times!!). You'll need a person ordained as a priest to preside at the Eucharist, but that's common among the greatest part of Christianity. In recent years, local leaders in remote areas have been ordained priests for this purpose, but they haven't been through the college mill.

    The problem might not be as much in finding people to lead the services as much as it might be to get them to attend them.
  • I have a question. In the Orthodox church we have a thing called presanctified liturgy wherein the priest blesses bread and wine which is then stored in special vessels, and can be administered to the faithful by a non-priest in certain circumstances (such as visiting the home-bound, or people in hospital). Is there any such thing in the Anglican church?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Yes, it is called communion by extension.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    ...Time to reclaim the real idea of ordination in the sense of calling and equipping. You'll then have enough people to cover way more services than keeping it to a trained elite.
    I'm a traditionalist; I accept the authority of my branch of the Church.

    I'm a little surprised that more Church of England parishes don't seem to have trained laypeople leading Morning or Evening Prayer.


  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    TheOrganist If there were not communion this Sunday in your particular parish, how far would you have to travel to find one?
  • mousethief wrote: »
    I have a question. In the Orthodox church we have a thing called presanctified liturgy wherein the priest blesses bread and wine which is then stored in special vessels, and can be administered to the faithful by a non-priest in certain circumstances (such as visiting the home-bound, or people in hospital). Is there any such thing in the Anglican church?

    Yes, lay people can take 'reserved sacrament' communion to individuals and groups within the community eg residential homes.

    That's not the same thing as 'communion by extension' which involves a lay person leading a communion service within a church using reserved sacrament. This needs specific approval by the bishop, afaik.

  • The people who take communion to the sick tend to be licensed to do so - so there has been a bit of training and support
  • Gee D wrote: »
    TheOrganist If there were not communion this Sunday in your particular parish, how far would you have to travel to find one?

    I would only have to walk c400 metres across a field - but then I don't live in the parish where I play. From the parish where I work you'd have to travel at least 6 miles to get to another church with a regular communion service - and the nearest only has a said 8am, their main event is an All-Age Worship, referred to by its refugees in my choir as Bear Garden with Choruses.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I can well understand that you'd not want to go to the All-Age service - all physical ages it may be (but only may). 6 miles is not that far. We travel about 15 km each way to St Sanity each week. We could go rather closer, but that church is rather anti-women and we'd rather not go there despite its good liturgy, preaching etc.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    I have a question. In the Orthodox church we have a thing called presanctified liturgy wherein the priest blesses bread and wine which is then stored in special vessels, and can be administered to the faithful by a non-priest in certain circumstances (such as visiting the home-bound, or people in hospital). Is there any such thing in the Anglican church?

    Yes. Lay members of our (TEC) shack visit one old people's home every Sunday bringing the reserved sacrament, and another once a month. There's a form to be used in the BCP.
  • DardaDarda Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    I can well understand that you'd not want to go to the All-Age service - all physical ages it may be (but only may).
    Once a month, our "main" Sunday service is all age. Not my favourite service, but I always try to be there to show that our church is one worshipping community. How must the youngsters feel if our absence makes them think they are not valued? By the same reasoning, I will sometimes attend the more traditional earlier communion service mainly frequented by our more elderly members.
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