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Better proposals from the chair

09 September 2016

If your PCC is a test of endurance, read on, says Peter McGeary

Being a better PCC: How to be more effective in the life and mission of the local church
John Cox
Kevin Mayhew £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10



PCC tonight: Making PCCs better
James Lawrence
CPAS £18.75



ONE of the earliest and greatest issues faced by the Early Church was growth, and problems associated with it have endured to this day. Having more and more Christians inevitably transformed an eccentric offshoot of Judaism into a full-blown religion. As soon as that happened, then issues to do with order and authority arose. Law had to be used to give order.

And two thousand years later we have the synodical system. The fruit of slow and sometimes painful development, the Church of England’s structures of governance have been the butt of many an acidic comment: one of my favourites is the wonderful definition of a deanery synod as a group of Christian persons united by a common desire to go home.

At the bottom of the synodical pyramid is one of the oldest bits of the structure: the parochial church council. Chaired (usually) by the incumbent of the parish church, this representative body of local people is responsible both for the mission of the church in the area, and also the material needs of the church building. A legal entity — a “body corporate” — and a charitable body, the PCC is obliged to conform to many rules and procedures: there is a great deal that needs to be done.

In the face of this, is it any wonder that many parish priests find it hard to find candidates to stand for office on the PCC, or struggle to deter the wrong sort? What of the increasing number of multi-parish benefices, where the clergy can find themselves on a ceaseless round of meetings, if they are not careful? What about parishes (like my own, for instance) where the context of a meeting with certain obligatory structures is simply not how people talk honestly to one another?

Both of these books try in their different ways to address these issues. What they have in common is a serious commitment to the concept of a PCC as a body that is essential to the building up of a Christian community: it is not just a set of meetings to endure.

John Cox has produced that most difficult of books: a short, clear, and comprehensive introduction to something that could be very boring. In 70 pages, he gives a guide to the purposes, powers, and responsibilities of the PCC, and to the ways in which meetings should be conducted. He tells the reader what PCCs are for. This book cannot, of course, replace the Church Representation Rules, but is a very good digest of them, combined with a rationale for their being there in the first place. It would be a useful gift to a potential PCC member.

James Lawrence’s book is much larger. It comes with six booklets with suggested sessions for PCC meetings, and a host of additional material available online via a code printed at the back of the book. Intended primarily for the clergy, the greater part of the book concerns itself with the nuts and bolts of chairing a PCC meeting, and confronting what the author calls the “common dysfunctions” of meetings: poor organisation, difficult people, and so on.

The six PCC sessions are intended to get PCC members to reflect on why (and for whom) they give up their precious time. The online resources include more prosaic, but necessary, guides to what is involved in being a secretary or treasurer, and so on.

This book needs to be given by directors of training to all curates before they learn bad habits from their training incumbents, and to all incumbents so that they can freshen up their ideas about their PCCs, and not have mini nervous breakdowns the night before a meeting.


The Revd Peter McGeary is the Vicar of St Mary’s, Cable Street, in east London, and a Priest-Vicar of Westminster Abbey.

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