The Church of England and “Festival Churches”: update

In an earlier guest post Trevor Cooper, Chairman of the Council of The Ecclesiological Society, suggested a taxonomy for buildings designated as “Festival Churches” – a concept designed to address the position of Church of England churches threatened with closure This further post by Trevor addresses some of the legislative measures involved…

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Following my earlier post, the Church of England published Association of Festival Churches, in which it explained:

“Recent legal changes and forthcoming changes to Canon B 14A mean that a Festival Church can remain legally ‘open’ as a parish church and place of regular worship, while embracing this flexibility [of being a Festival Church]. Previously a parish church had to have its legal status changed by a closure scheme to be able to do this, which was unnecessarily expensive and complicated, and could cause pastoral harm.”

Under Canons B 11 (Of Morning and Evening Prayer in parish churches) and the first part of B 14 (Of Holy Communion in parish churches), each parish church is required to celebrate Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Holy Communion on every Sunday (and on feast days); Canon B 14A (Of services in churches and other places of worship) empowers the Bishop to dispense with the requirement. However, amongst other requirements, the Bishop in doing so must “ensure that no such church ceases altogether to be used for public worship”.

The force of the latter clause is discussed in the (very readable) Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 Code of Recommended Practice.  It points out at Vol 2, 15.5 that the Measure allows only one route for closure when a church is no longer required for use, and:

“Where a proposal for closure is pending, a church should not therefore be closed: indeed, it is most desirable for statutory services to be maintained otherwise it could be successfully argued that there has been a degree of prejudgment at odds with natural justice and amounting to procedural irregularity.”

It also points out that “there is the practical consideration also that a church seen to be out of regular use is likely to become an attraction to vandals and the risk of theft of the contents will be greater”.

In its report on the launch of the new Association of Festival Churches, ChurchCare indicates that it will soon be possible to affiliate to it. Questions about Festival Churches and/or the Association, are directed to Joseph Elders, the Major Projects Officer. We will follow with interest the proposed amendments to Canon B 14A and how they address the Church of England’s understandable desire to focus its resources without, at the same time, creating difficulties if it is later decided to close a Festival Church.

Trevor Cooper, Chairman of the Council of The Ecclesiological Society

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Cite this article as: Trevor Cooper, “The Church of England and ‘Festival Churches’: update” in Law & Religion UK, 18 February 2016, https://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2016/02/18/the-church-of-england-and-festival-churches-update/

2 thoughts on “The Church of England and “Festival Churches”: update

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