Ashes of vicar who died in office to be interred in the church after court grants ‘unprecedented’ request from his widow

26 January 2018

JOHN DARCH/GEOGRAPH/COMMONS

The resolution of the PCC of St George’s, Chorley, specifically stated that only incumbents who died in service would be considered for interment inside the church

The resolution of the PCC of St George’s, Chorley, specifically stated that only incumbents who died in service would be considered for interment insi...

THE Consistory Court granted a faculty for the ashes of a much-loved and respected vicar, the Revd Timothy Wilby, who died unexpectedly in 2016 while holding office at St George’s, Chorley, in the archdeaconry of Blackburn, to be interred beneath the floor of the church.

Last year, his widow asked if consideration could be given to his ashes being placed within the church which he loved. After taking advice from the diocese, the PCC met formally to consider her request, which was unprecedented as no incumbent had previously died while in office.

After discussion, the 21 members of the PCC who were present unanimously passed the necessary resolution for the ashes to be interred in the church. To avoid creating any unfortunate precedent, however, the PCC minutes recorded that “such a procedure would apply only to incumbents who died whilst still in office at St George’s. It would not set a precedent for all and sundry to be able to make such a request.” The expected cost of £500 was to be financed by way of a gift to the church.

The current Priest-in-Charge, the Revd David Arnold, and two churchwardens, presented an unopposed petition for a faculty to inter the ashes in a granite casket resting on a concrete slab below the base and to the west of the newly repositioned “Angel” font in the baptistery at the eastern end of the south aisle, and to erect a white marble plaque above the casket, flush with the surrounding timber boarded floor.

The plaque would bear the inscription:

 

The Rev’d Timothy D Wilby

MA, MusM, ALCM

1959 – 2016

‘Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty’

Psalm 91.1

 

The Deputy Chancellor of the Consistory Court of the diocese of Blackburn, His Honour Judge David Hodge QC, asked the Registry to make inquiries about whether the inscription should contain some reference to the Mr Wilby’s position in the church, and whether his widow might wish to have her remains interred with those of her husband when she died.

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It was pointed out that his involvement with the church was mentioned on the church’s board of vicars and curates, located at the entrance to the church.

Mrs Wilby indicated that she did not want her ashes interred next to those of her husband, and that that could not happen, in any event, because the PCC’s resolution specifically stated that only incumbents who died in service would be considered for interment inside the church. There was a large plot outside the church for the interment of ashes. Those responses dealt with the Deputy Chancellor’s concerns.

St George’s is listed as Grade II*. The DAC expressed the opinion, when recommending the proposed interment and memorial plaque, that they were not likely to affect the character of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest, or affect its archaeological importance or any existing archaeological remains.

The Deputy Chancellor concurred with that assessment, and was satisfied that the ordinary presumption “in favour of things as they stand” had been readily rebutted by the design of, and need for, the proposed memorial.

The church should be granted its request to honour the memory of its former vicar who died while in the service of his parish, the Deputy Chancellor said, and to do so would be “a fitting tribute to his work, and the respect and affection in which he is clearly held”.

The faculty was issued on condition that the works were carried out within six months of the date of the faculty, and that the church’s insurance company was notified of, and approved, the works before they commenced, and that they were carried out in accordance with any requirements of the insurers.

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