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Ask and you may well receive

by
09 September 2016

Changes to a church often need permission, says Sheila Cameron


Wye Parish Church Archives

Galleries and box pews: shown in an 1878 plan of Wye Parish Church, Kent. From A Window on the Church of England: A history of Wye Parish Church, by C. Paul Burnham, who conveys a sense of the wider church context (£8 postage free from Dr Burnham, 24 Chequers Park, Wye, Ashford TN25 5BB; email mpburnham@btinternet.com)

Galleries and box pews: shown in an 1878 plan of Wye Parish Church, Kent. From A Window on the Church of England: A history of Wye Parish Church, by C. Paul Burnham, who conveys a sense of the wider church context (£8 postage free from Dr Burnham, 24 Chequers Park, Wye, Ashford TN25 5BB; email mpburnham@btinternet.com)

Changing Churches: A practical guide to the faculty system
Charles Mynors
Bloomsbury £40
(978-1-4411-5643-3)
Church Times Bookshop £36

 

 

WHAT is a faculty? What is meant by the ecclesiastical exemption? Ask a member of your worshipping congregation, and the response would almost certainly be a blank stare.

This book, divided into four parts, unravels the mystery of these strange and perplexing words. Charles Mynors introduces the reader to the need for consent for work to consecrated churches through a system established long before the planning legislation of the 20th century. He provides a Who’s Who of persons and bodies involved in the faculty system (Part I). He then explains in detail the steps to be taken in seeking a faculty (permission), the progress of the application, known as a petition, through the various stages, depending on whether it is opposed or unopposed. He also touches on the works that need both a faculty and planning permission (Part II).

His Part III will be particularly attractive to those seeking guidance on specific issues. Here is a clear and straightforward commentary, accompanied by notes referring to relevant cases on the subject-matter, whether it is seating, flooring, creating a meeting area, protection for windows, or other work. He also comments on controls to cathedrals and churches outside England (Part IV).

The book covers the ordinary aspects of church care and maintenance by reference to the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015, which came into force on 1 January 2016 and can be found online. Lists A and B from Schedule 1 to the Rules, reproduced in Appendix 1 of the book, will be music to the ear of any churchwarden. These are matters that can be carried out without any faculty, although under list B the archdeacon has to confirm that this is so after consultation with a member of the diocesan advisory committee (DAC).

Whenever a faculty is required, Mynors emphasises the need for full consultation with the DAC, a linchpin in the system, and others such as amenity societies. This is because the ecclesiastical exemption from secular listed building consent for works of alteration or extension to listed churches depends on the faculty system operated by the Church of England (3.2.4).

He recognises that parishes may be frustrated by the complexity and resulting delay to a project that they believe will assist worship and mission. But he points out that most of our listed churches are national treasures, of which the present incumbents and present congregations are temporary occupiers, and a balance has to be struck in considering the effect proposals will have on their buildings (12.3.1).

This book is well indexed and a good read from cover to cover, as well as an excellent practical reference book for clergy, churchwardens, and many others.

Dave Walker’s cartoons are a delightful addition, and remind us that a little humour does no harm as we struggle to change our churches within the constraints of the law.

 

Sheila Cameron QC was Dean of the Arches and Auditor from 2001 to 2009.

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