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Parish Reorganisation

Uniting parishes and benefices

Angus Deas

Pastoral & Closed Churches Officer

01904 699507

Uniting parishes and benefices, also known as ‘pastoral reorganisation’, is a great way of sharing resources and freeing up people and time for mission and ministry.  It may help you and your church as you respond to Living Christ’s Story.  Here we tell you all about it.

What might influence the need for uniting, or some other reorganisation?

  • Ideas from PCCs, for example churches wishing to pool resources like PCC officers and members, alter parish boundaries to include new housing
  • Diocesan initiatives, deanery plans
  • Suggestions from the bishop or archdeacon
  • The desire, or need, to share ministers.  Imaginative deployment of self-supporting, part time and lay ministry.
  • Congregations and resources that are insufficient currently to manage their church buildings
  • New worshipping communities and church plants

What kinds of reorganisation are there?

All sorts, depending on what’s best and what’s needed. Options include:

  • Uniting benefices
  • Uniting parishes
  • Altering boundaries
  • Creating team or group ministries, or a Bishop’s Mission Order
  • Changes to the way your church building is used, which may include exploring its closure

Reorganisations may involve changes to names, a review of housing, changes to patronage.  This will all be explained and explored if it’s necessary.

What’s involved?

Lots of informal discussions and conversations as ideas are developed and refined.  This is the really important part of the process because changing the way we do things is daunting to many.  There will be sound reasons for the changes you are considering, which will help to convince people that the change is needed, and that it will be for the better, but they may take quite a lot of explaining and reasoning.  Prayer will help, as will your deanery leaders, archdeacon and the pastoral team at the Diocesan office.  In fact please talk to your archdeacon and the pastoral team early on, as they will be able to offer invaluable help as you develop your thoughts and ideas.

Once these are really taking shape the Archdeacon, accompanied by the Archdeaconry Mission & Pastoral Working Party, will meet with the PCCs and parishioners.  The aim of meeting is to listen to the ideas, to discuss the options, to ask and to answer questions, to make sure the developing plans are understood, and to ascertain that, if not everybody, then the vast majority of people are on board.

In cases which might involve the closure of a church, the wider community and other interested parties will be invited to a public meeting as well, so that they are aware and involved and can have their say.  And who knows, maybe enough will step forward to offer practical help to support you to keep the church open.

The Working Party will report to the Diocese’s Mission and Pastoral sub Committee.  The report will include the locally agreed draft proposals, that is, the practical changes that will be made to achieve the outcome that you want.

If the sub Committee thinks it’s a good idea too, the pastoral team at the Diocesan Office will then manage a two stage, formal written consultation of all the interested parties.  These are the PCCs, clergy, patrons, the area and lay dean and, where church closure is being considered, the parish or town council, Ward Councillors and the Local Planning Authority.

At the end of the consultation, if there remains a general agreement to the proposals, they are brought into effect by means of a Pastoral Scheme or Pastoral Order.  As a guide this process takes between nine and twelve months, but it can take longer.

Who can help?

In the first instance when an idea is forming please contact your Archdeacon.  As the process goes on, Angus Deas of the pastoral team will also be able to help with the detail and answer your questions.  Please also refer to our Guidance Notes which offer general advice to get you going and to understand the implications that would result from the reorganisation.