“Major Churches” and “Festival Churches” – II

“Festival Churches”

In our post Churches, Minsters and Cathedrals, we considered the legal distinction between these designations of places of worship[ within the Church of England; this included a short review of the terms “greater/major church” and “festival church”. This was followed by “Major Churches” and “Festival Churches” – I in which we gave further consideration to “Minsters” and examined the designation “Major Churches”; In this post was consider “Festival Churches”.

Festival Churches

In an attempt to keep open churches which are threatened with closure, in 2016 the Church of England adopted the concept of designating some as “Festival Churches”. This was reviewed in guest posts here, here, and here, and further information is available on the Church of England web site here. This states:

“Festival churches allow for maximum flexibility in offering services. The services can be tailored to the needs of each community (e.g. celebrating local or patronal festivals as long as the church holds at least 6 each year). This flexibility can avoid the requirement for a predetermined rota of services in a number of isolated rural churches in a benefice, which can lead to poorly attended services, a sense of failure and a waste of resources.”

A Festival Church is a church building which is not used for weekly worship, but is valued and required by the community for local events and for Festivals of the Church and for Rites of Passage (Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals). These Festivals include Christmas, Easter and Harvest Festival, but also local festivals, Saints’ days, Mothers’ Day, Remembrance Sunday, Rogation Days, etc. A list of festivals and appropriate material is available here“, [but see note on Canon B 14A(4), below].

A Festival Church can also accommodate appropriate complementary uses (community, cultural and commercial), which gives opportunities to reconnect the church building and congregation with the community if this connection has been weakened or lost.”

As with the designation “Major Church”, the use of “Festival Church” is a “term of art” rather than a legal definition per se; however, the modi operandi of Festival Churches may have legal and other implications in relation to: their use as places of worship; their complementary use(s); and when shared with others.

Continued use for worship

The creation of Festival Churches necessitated the introduction of Canon B 14A Of services in churches and other places of worship and a consequent modification to Canon B 11(3), which together modified the former prescriptive requirements for an open church in relation to worship. As a consequence, the reading of Morning and Evening Prayer in any parish church as required by Canon B 11, or the celebration of the Holy Communion in any parish church as required by Canon B 14 may be dispensed with, either (a) on an occasional basis, as authorized by the minister and the parochial church council acting jointly; or (b) on a regular basis, as authorized by the bishop on the request of the minister and the parochial church council acting jointly.

In exercising these powers, the minister and the PCC or the bishop must be satisfied that there is good reason for doing so and shall – (i) have regard to the frequency of services of Morning and Evening Prayer or the celebration of the Holy Communion (as the case may be) in other parish churches or places of worship in the benefice; and (ii) ensure that no church ceases altogether to be used for public worship. However, Canon B 14A(4) provides that the bishop of a diocese “may direct what services shall be held or shall not be required to be held in any church in the diocese which is not a parish church or in any building, or part of a building, in the diocese licensed for public worship under section 29 of the Pastoral Measure 1983 but not designated as a parish centre of worship”. [The 1983 Measure is repealed and has been replaced by the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011].

The Church’s web site describes the operation of a Festival Church within these parameters as:

“… a church building which is not used for weekly worship, but is valued and required by the community for local events and for Festivals of the Church and for Rites of Passage (Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals). These Festivals include Christmas, Easter and Harvest Festival, but also local festivals, Saints’ days, Mothers’ Day, Remembrance Sunday, Rogation Days, etc. A list of festivals and appropriate material is available here“.

The relevant templates for a PCC resolution and letter to the Bishop can be found here and here. The CBC recommends that such a PCC resolution is only considered after wide consultation within the local community, benefice and deanery and always with the knowledge and support of the Archdeacon.

Contemporary uses

A Festival Church “can also accommodate appropriate complementary uses (community, cultural and commercial), which gives opportunities to reconnect the church building and congregation with the community if this connection has been weakened or lost”. The Church website indicates that other features of a Festival Church might include:

  • Open during the day for visitors and worshippers;
  • Increased use of church building for community needs;
  • Release of energy for outreach and mission activity;
  • Insurance and maintenance responsibilities may be delegated / pooled / outsourced.

A local, diocesan or national trust might manage these responsibilities on behalf of the PCC, and further information is available on:

The Association of Festival Churches conference at Sheffield Cathedral on 25th March 2019 focused on Mission and Community; the presentations included:

These, and other presentations, are summarized here.

Comment

At the conclusion of the conference at Sheffield Cathedral, above, Becky Clark, Director of Churches and Cathedrals at the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, said:

“The conference has had two big themes: Tension and Communication. Tension is held between the desire to keep churches open and the realities of resource and energy that limit those possibilities. It is also held between the experience at national, diocesan and parish level, all of which can be very different …

Festival Churches are not the right answer for every church that wants to vary its service pattern, or do more with its community. They are one option in a toolbox, which includes Resource Churches, Major Churches, and traditional options such as becoming chapels of ease, and closure where that is missionally the right thing to do. Dioceses and churches considering their future need to know that this option exists, and is a positive choice towards remaining an open and sustainable church.”

A subsequent post will look other aspects of pastoral reorganization and development relating to “Chapels of Ease” and “Resources Churches”.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "“Major Churches” and “Festival Churches” – II" in Law & Religion UK, 9 December 2019, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2019/12/09/major-churches-and-festival-churches-ii/

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