*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Take churchyard rules out of pastoral work

by
28 July 2010

iStock

From the Revd E. John Penny

Sir, — Only those of us who have experienced the death of a baby, child, or young person can begin to understand the grief of bereaved parents, and their desire for the inappropriate memorials that fail to comply with diocesan rules (News, 23 July).

Pity the incumbent who has tried to minister to these parents, and has found that the first victims of their distress are rationality and clear-minded thought. To refuse a me­morial application is to invite hostility from the family and local community. Working relation­ships with monumental masons can be soured for many years.

The clergy of benefices with open churchyards are therefore at a considerable disadvantage compared with those who have none. They can spend many hours negotiating with the family, the archdeacon, or the DAC about the colour, size, and decoration of a gravestone. No wonder many stop trying to “hold the line”, approve all applications, and scupper their successor’s effort to maintain legality.

Now that “mission” is the key word to parochial ministry, would it not be wise to remove from the incumbents’ responsibilities those duties that successfully torpedo her or his efforts at spreading the gospel of God’s unconditional love?

For a suitable handling fee, the diocesan office could appoint someone other than the parish priest to process applications for memorials (should the incumbent wish). Clergy might then cease to be a focus of recrimination and hostility, and become the agents of desperately needed pastoral care.

JOHN PENNY
Rural Dean of Wisbech Lynn
Marshland
33 Church Drove, Outwell
Wisbech PE14 8RH

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear alongside your letter.

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.