CHURCH GOVERNANCE - A BRIEF GUIDE FOR THE REALLY INTERESTED
Although the vast majority of this website is tasked to promote the four churches in our benefice, questions regularly are received about the bigger things - not necessarily the God Question, which is really interesting and easy to answer, but more difficult to explain is how does the Church work? Who runs the Church? How can I get involved? This short guide should help with such questions
The church is open to all. For some people , their vocation and mission is to help run the churches. So, a good place to start is an understanding of PCC’s - the building block of Church of England Governance.
THE PAROCHIAL CHURCH COUNCIL
Are you a newly appointed member of a PCC, or someone who is considering standing for election but would like to know more about the roles and responsibilities of membership?
If the answer to either question is yes, then we hope that this guide will answer any questions or concerns you might have, and help you to enjoy your time as a member.
This guide is intended to be an introduction to membership, and a source of guidance. The Vicar will be able to provide further guidance or, if you are looking for more detail on the workings of the PCC, you will find some suggestions for further reading at the end of the guide.
WHAT IS THE PCC?
The Parochial Church Council is the governing body of a parish church, or a group of churches. There are TWO PCC’s in the Benefice (Old Hills Group of Churches:
Powick PCC - covering St Peter’s Powick and St James’ – Callow End
Guarlford & Madresfield with Newland - covering, not unsurprisingly the two churches/three communities covered by that parish.
A PCC with an annual income of more than £100,000 must be registered with the Charity Commissioners; those with an income below this threshold, whilst not currently required to register, must comply with all other charity laws. Therefore, those sitting on each PCCs are Trustees.
The PCC has legal status and the Church Representation Rules apply [see appendix a]
WHAT DOES THE PCC DO?
The PCC is a team made up of members of clergy and lay members of the church. Together they are responsible for the overall wellbeing, practical as well as spiritual, of their church, the church members, and the church buildings. The PCC also has a duty to promote the mission of the church within the wider community. Some of the responsibilities are devolved to the Vicar and Churchwardens but to quote from the Parochial Church Council (Powers) Measure 1956 section 2 ‘It shall be the duty of the Vicar and the PCC to consult together on matters of general concern and importance to the parish’. Members of the PCC have the right to be consulted, to know what is proposed, and to have the opportunity to express an opinion on it.
The Vicar is the Chairman of each PCC in the benefice. A Lay Chair (or vice-chair), a treasurer, and secretary will usually be elected to office at its first meeting after the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM).
PRAYER AND WORSHIP
Prayer and Worship are at the heart of the work of the PCC. The PCC should ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place for public worship and provide an opportunity for people of all ages to meet for prayer and worship.
In practice this might mean agreeing on the format and timings of services that will meet the needs of the church members, providing facilities for younger members and families, or older people, setting up Bible study or Prayer groups. We should strive to be as inclusive as possible.
MISSION AND OUTREACH
The PCC has an important part to play in promoting the mission of the church, amongst the congregation and in the wider community, and members of the PCC should demonstrate their commitment to the Christian ethos, through leadership, by example and by witness, in the parish.
Each PCC is encouraged to participate in the Vicar’s Parish Review (instigated in July 2019), to review the life of the church and identify mission opportunities. It is hoped that every member of the PCC can support the ethos of the plan, in time facilitate its implementation, and place it under a regular review process.
The PCC and its members have a duty to support their clergy, prayerfully and personally. They have a duty to support the members of the congregation and to extend a welcome to all who visit the church, to members of the church community and to those visiting the church at other times. The church has a duty of pastoral care to all who live in our communities, whether members of the church or not, and PCC members are expected to take the lead in demonstrating that care.
The PCC will appoint a treasurer to manage the day to day finances of the parish. The treasurer does not need to be a qualified accountant. He/She must understand how to maintain books, must have a good knowledge of the parish and the work of the church, and importantly must have the full confidence of the PCC membership.
The treasurer will keep members informed on the financial situation and present a full report to each PCC meeting. PCC members are Trustees of a charity and are responsible for managing the Church’s finances. They must ensure that all funds are properly accounted for,
the books properly maintained, and the PCC annual accounts inspected or audited, and formally approved by the PCC, prior to the APCM.
In law, the PCC is a body corporate. This means that it is a separate body from the people who serve on it so PCC members are not liable for any debts incurred by the PCC. However, the trustees do have certain responsibilities under the Charities Act and members should acquaint themselves with Trusteeship, an introduction for PCC members which provides more detailed guidance.
In the Church year 2019/20, both of our treasurers are stepping down. Is this YOUR time to gift some time to the churches to support their mission by becoming our treasurer(s)? If no one steps forward, the PCC will need to consider alternatives, such as hiring a paid book keeper which will understandably restrict what we can do with our income and investments, including commitments to the wider church. Please Contact the Vicar if you can help.
The PCC is responsible for the care and maintenance of the fabric of the church, and any other buildings owned by the church. The PCC members should be aware of any issues relating to the buildings and they have the responsibility of deciding on them and voting on items of expenditure.
THE PCC MEETING
The PCC is required by law to meet at least four times a year (one meeting may follow on from the APCM) though some PCCs may decide to meet more frequently. Both PCCs, given their size, have decided to ,meet four times a year. There is good practice to suggest a maximum two hours is timetabled for each meeting, as a general rule.
The PCC should take time at these meetings to consider and discuss, and if appropriate vote upon, matters concerning the Church of England arising at a higher synod or referred down to the PCC by the Bishop or by the deanery, diocesan or General Synod.
The PCC may also on occasion decide to send information, an opinion or a motion up to the deanery synod. The PCC meeting should be a forum for open discussion with every member feeling able to ask a question or voice an opinion.
The PCC may support a request to form a Standing Committee to attend to matters arising from the PCC outside the scheduled meetings. Such a Committee is chaired by the Vicar and membership comprises of the Churchwardens (where appointed), the PCC Secretary and Treasurer and one Lay Member of the PCC. Any actions from the Standing Committee are reported into the next possible PCC. In this benefice, only one Standing Committee exists - in Powick PCC. GMN Parish decided to call additional meetings if required of the full PCC with due notice instead of creating a Standing Committee (July 2019 decision).
WHO CAN BE A MEMBER OF THE PCC?
If you are 16 years old or over, have been on the electoral roll of your parish for at least 6 months and are an actual communicant, YOU can stand for election to your PCC.
If you want to join your local PCC, Contact Us to be put in touch with your local PCC Electoral Roll Officer (the person delegated by each PCC to receive applications and administer the Church Membership/Electoral Roll). Note – every SIX years, the roll has to be completed revisited and fresh applications are requested. No carry over of the former rill membership is permitted. This was last undertaken in 2019.
Someone may ask - What skills do I need to be a member of the PCC? Skills may be too prescriptive, it is better perhaps to say that someone interested in becoming a member of the PCC will be:
· A committed member of the congregation
· Interested in and involved with the life of the church and the local community
· Willing to learn and to share ideas, experience and gifts
· Able to listen to another’s point of view
Some golden rules of PCC membership
· Attend meetings (and on time)
· Read the papers before the meeting, be prepared
· Ask if in doubt (especially important for new members)
· Try not to fall out with your fellow members
· Listen to all the arguments being put forward before making up your mind
· Enjoy being a member of the PCC!
· Volunteer for a task unless you are sure that you have the time to complete it
The PCC needs thinkers and doers, questioners and listeners but you do not have to be
· a saint
· a theologian
· an expert
THE PLACE OF THE PCC IN THE WIDER CHURCH
There are 169 parishes in the Diocese of Worcester and each parish, and its PCC, fulfils an important role as one of the building blocks in the administrative structure of the Diocese, and ultimately the Church of England as a whole.
The Diocese of Worcester is one of 44 Dioceses in the Church of England.
Our 2 Archdeacons (of Worcester and of Dudley) have responsibility for helping clergy and parishes in the deaneries of their archdeaconries in a variety of ways: pastoral, administrative, legal and much else.
We have 14 Deaneries in the diocese. They are made up of a number of parishes and, functioning as a Deanery synod, they work to bring together the views of their parishes on common problems, to discuss and formulate common policies on these problems, to foster a sense of community and interdependence among those parishes, and generally to promote ‘the whole mission of the Church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical.’
Each deanery has a Rural Dean who chairs the deanery synod in partnership with an elected lay co-chair. Synod membership comprises all licensed clergy in the deanery area, and lay members elected, triennially, by each parish. Deanery synod members themselves elect the clerical and lay members of Diocesan synod, triennially.
Diocesan synod is the main governing body of the diocese. Matters of mission, strategy, governance and, as the Board of finance, budgets and accounts are ultimately under the authority of the synod.
General Synod, the national governing body for all matters affecting the Church, comprises Bishops, and clergy and laity elected by deanery synod members every five years.
GOVERNANCE IN THE DIOCESE OF WORCESTER
The Worcester Diocesan Fund and Board of Finance (the DBF), is the financial executive of diocesan synod. The DBF is subject to the Companies Acts and is responsible for the custody and management of diocesan funds, and the employment of all persons in receipt of salaries from those funds.
a) Your incumbent may have a copy of The Church Representation Rules or you may purchase a copy for yourself at the Lyttleton Well Book Shop in Malvern or on line. It’s a fascinating read….
b) A guide, Trusteeship, an introduction for PCC members can be downloaded from the Parish Resources website at (www.parishresources.org.uk/charity/Trusteeship%2 0leaflet%208pp.pdf)
‘Practical Church Management’ [James Behrens, published by Gracewing]
‘A Churchwarden’s Handbook’ [MacMorran and Briden, published by Continuum]
Finally, some guidance from St Paul, writing to the Romans (JB Phillips – The New Testament in Modern English)
HINT - DOES THIS APPLY TO US, AND TO OUR PCC?
‘I give this piece of advice to each one of you. Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all. ........we, though many in number compose one body in Christ and are all members of one another. Through the grace of God we have different gifts. If our gift is preaching, let us preach to the limit of our vision. If it is serving others let us concentrate on our service; If it is teaching let us give all that we have to our teaching; and if our gift be the stimulating of the faith of others let us set ourselves to it. Let those who are called to give, give freely; let the person who wields authority think of his responsibility; and let the person who feels sympathy for his fellows act cheerfully’
This article is largely based on a article from the Diocese of Peterborough and adapted for local use in the Old Hills Parishes. With grateful thanks.