We are heading into an interregnum while being in the middle of a phased reordering programme. Do you have any advice?
CHURCHES seem to be well versed in the liturgical and pastoral management tasks during an interregnum, but the management of a building programme tends to be less reliable.
Repair programmes, such as those operating under an English Heritage or Heritage Lottery Fund grant, seem to progress relatively smoothly regardless of the changes going on. Do check whether the loss of the minister will leave you short of signatories on the bank account.
Check also the signatories required by the grant-maker. And ensure that both the chair of the building committee and the church representative for liaison with the architect are well established before the interregnum, and are able to follow through, even past the arrival of a new priest.
Reordering programmes are often liable to suffer when there is a change at the helm. There is a fundamental principle at stake here: the changes you plan in your reordering should be understood and agreed by the majority of the church, and respond to a clear need for development. The building works should not be a response to the personal wishes and expectations of a particular priest, because his or her successor may introduce another set of ideas.
It is one of the best examples of a situation where the priest should be a leader and a facilitator in the life of the church rather than having unnecessary control. After all, during the interregnum, the congregation and the PCC will manage to carry only a project that they thoroughly believe in themselves.
So, facing an interregnum, ensure that the reordering or building committee is empowered to carry the project forward with the full authority it needs from the PCC. Ensure that everyone, from the architect to the DAC secretary and the archdeacon, knows who is the contact person and link with the building committee for the duration.
Don't forget that if the programme stutters, you will end up spending unnecessary money. Ensure that the committee is able to make decisions in line with the direction of works that the PCC has agreed, and within the funds that have been raised for the works.
Fear of failure or mismanagement during an interregnum often besets PCCs; so set up this robust management well in advance, with a remit for continuing until the project is complete.
At the interview with the potential new minister, ensure that the candidates are fully apprised of the building programme, and to what extent it is "not up for question". The biggest upset comes if the new minister arrives, states that he or she does not like the reordering plan, and requests that the programme stop. You may need better "buy-in" from the selected candidate before his or her appointment is confirmed. But do expect him or her to add and contribute constructively.
Be aware of elements of your plan which it would be destructive to alter at a late stage, and which elements have potential for further discussion, together with the new minister. Do not expect him or her immediately to chair the building committee with a programme under way, but possibly to become a member of it for a while, in order to offer understanding and support.
Special offer for PCC members: subscribe to the Church Times now for just £25 for six months, and receive a free copy of The PCC Member’s Essential Guide, by Mark Tanner. (New UK subscribers.)