Go-ahead for electronic service registers
THE Synod approved the Electronic Register Book of Services Form and Conditions 2023. It extends to parish churches, parochial chapels, chapels of ease, chapels of a conventional district, guild, and cathedrals. Each would need to pass a resolution to adopt it, and similarly if they chose to revert to written registers. Personal data may be recorded in an electronic register of services only if to do is in accordance with the law. The type, date, and time of the service, numbers attending in person, the number of communicants over and under the age of 16, and the name of the officiant are mandatory fields for entry. Recording the number of those attending online is optional, as is indicating whether the preacher was the same as the officiating minister, and the sermon subject. The electronic register — described as “designed to be intuitive and easy to use” — will be made available via an online facility at achurchnearyou.com and accessed using any standard device. The statistical information will be automatically transferred to the Parish Returns database. Moving the motion on Monday afternoon, Julie Dziegiel (Oxford) said this was a straightforward item, emphasising that it was completely optional, easily accessible, “even to the most technophobic of churchwardens”, and “ready to go”. Nigel Bacon (Lincoln) sought clarification on whether the data-privacy laws permitted the entry of names of couples married or those baptised. The Revd Eleanor Robertshaw (Sheffield) hoped that the data — encapsulations of moments in parish life — would be accessible to people wanting to look back at things. The motion was carried.
Clear explanations required for ‘contested heritage’
ON MONDAY, the General Synod approved the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2023. These concern applications for a faculty concerning “contested heritage” (defined by the Church Buildings Council as “memorialisation in tangible form of people and events connected with racism and slavery”). Under the amended rules, applicants will have to provide an explanation of how they have had due regard to guidance on such heritage issued by the Church Buildings Council. Chancellors, when giving reasons for granting or dismissing a faculty petition, will have to state how their decision has taken statutory and case-specific guidance into account.