Securing the Future – a Joint Benefice?

I approached our archdeacon, the Ven Clive Mansell, to enquire about ways of securing the future of both St Lawrence’s and St Margaret’s when I retire in the summer/autumn of 2016. At the present time each church is a separate parish and therefore a quarter time appointment (together they make a half time post sharing the same vicar) and as such they are potentially vulnerable. Plans are being made at the moment which will bring our diocese in line with other dioceses and the allocation of money for ministry could in the future be decided at a deanery level. People will quite rightly be making decisions about where ministry money should be spent and small parishes do not offer good value for money. One possible solution would be to legally bring the two churches together. The best model for our two churches would be a “Joint Benefice”, with two PCCs; four church wardens and separate finances – working together more closely, but retaining our

The Standing Committees, of both churches, have met twice to discuss this and both PCCs have met and there is a willingness to explore this further and to get answers to questions raised at the meetings. As part of the process of discerning what might be a good way forward we would like to involve people from both congregations in the discussions that are taking place. We would need to agree about what we might like to share together, or what we would like to commit to and this would be part of our application should we decide to go ahead. I would appreciate you coming (if you can) to a joint Away Morning to help to shape this. We will be meeting on the 8th November at Platt Church Room (adjacent to the church in St Mary Platt) from 9.30 am – 12.30 pm.

If we came to the decision that it would be right for our churches to become a Joint Benefice there would be a process to go through, which might take some months. The change could be made by what is called a Pastoral Scheme, and it would need the agreement of both PCCs. The diocese would then have to make the decision to proceed at the Pastoral Committee (that would come with a recommendation by the archdeacon); Bishop James would then have to send the required paperwork to the Church Commissioners; the Commissioners would ask the parishes to consult locally, to see if there are any objections; then the Commissioners would take the final decision. The process could take 3-4 months, or maybe longer? The diocesan secretary has already been informally approached by the archdeacon and would be agreeable to this change should we decide to make it. The archdeacon wondered why this had not happened 20 years ago when the churches were linked together with the same vicar?

Please come to the Away Morning, if you possibly can, and please pray about this.