The Church of England and “Festival Churches”: the Norwich model

Subsequent to previous posts on “Festival Churches”, Stuart Jones, of Birketts LLP and Registrar of the Diocese of Norwich, explains the Diocesan Churches Trust model further… 

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The Norwich model referred to in paragraph III of Trevor Cooper’s original post (The festival church as the responsibility of a Diocesan Trust) envisages the grant of a lease of the bulk of the relevant church building by the Incumbent, acting with the PCC (if any remains), in favour of the Diocesan Churches Trust. The Trust has been established as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation under the provisions of the Charities Act 2011. At present (February 2016) the four trustees are the three Archdeacons of the Diocese and the Diocesan Secretary.

Section 68 of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 allows only part of a church building to be leased, and requires that the primary use of the church building should remain as ‘public worship’. The Norwich model stretches section 68 as far as it will go, the aim being to place substantially the whole of the building in the hands of the trust, to relieve the parish and wider benefice of the burden of looking after the building, whilst allowing public worship to continue unaffected.

The lease template envisages that the Incumbent would reserve the right to hold usual and occasional services, and the building would remain the ‘parish church’, so that it would continue to be available for regular services, festival services and occasional offices such as baptisms, marriages and funerals.

A faculty would be needed for the grant of each lease.

The model envisages a 20-year lease, which may be ended at any time either by the Incumbent, if they and the parish wish to resume responsibility for the building, or by the Trust, if it becomes clear either that there is really no prospect of the building ever returning to normal tenure, and that it should be dealt with by a pastoral or redundancy scheme, or that the parish is now able to resume responsibility for the building. The lease is intended to give breathing space to the parish, allowing energies to be focused on mission rather than on building maintenance and repairs. It is hoped that in some cases this may allow the parish to become re-energized, and that the building may then return to normal tenure by allowing the lease to be brought to an end.

There has, however, been some resistance to the idea of stretching the provisions of section 68 far enough to allow this type of lease, and no leases have yet been granted, though a number of churches have been proposed for this treatment. The model may therefore proceed initially by using a form of licence instead of a lease. Hopefully the uncertainty over section 68 can be resolved constructively so that this model can be tested properly.

Stuart Jones

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Cite this article as: Stuart Jones, “The Church of England and ‘Festival Churches’: the Norwich model” in Law & Religion UK, 18 February 2016, https://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2016/02/18/the-church-of-england-and-festival-churches-the-norwich-model/#more-25350.

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  1. Pingback: Law and religion round-up – 21st February | Law & Religion UK

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