Cookie PolicyWe use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. We will take your continued use of our website as consent to our use of cookies.

 

      

Legal 500 Awards

Awards

ecclesiastical sector banner

Ecclesiastical FAQs


Parochial Fees

Can a PCC charge extra fees for additional expenses for weddings and funerals?

The fees are fees prescribed by the Parochial Fees Order. These fees are made by General Synod and approved in Parliament. A PCC has never had a power to set "fees" of its own. All parishioners (irrespective of whether they attend the church or not) have certain common law rights ie a right to be married in the parish church and to be buried in the churchyard. It is not legally open to a PCC or an incumbent to require or impose an additional fee for occasional offices over and above those prescribed by the Order.

Sums payable to organist, choirs, bell ringers, flower arrangers, etc is different. If such sums are charged in respect of genuinely optional items which the parties to the marriage, or the parties to a funeral or burial, have specifically requested and agreed to pay for then there is nothing to prevent these additional charges being made.

What it is not open to an incumbent or a PCC to do is to purport to make charges over and above the statutory fee for items that are simply essential to the exercise of the common right in question. It would not therefore be lawful for a PCC to impose a charge, for example, for opening the church for a wedding or for "use" of the church building or in respect of wear and tear of its fabric. The Order does of course include a fee for the PCC.

The cost of heating and lighting a church for a wedding or funeral is not straight forward. In theory it might be possible for a wedding or funeral to take place without any heating or lighting of the church. It might therefore be arguable that heating and lighting a church is not essential and will be provided only if specifically requested by the parties who had agreed to cover the cost of such a provision. However clergy and PCC's generally take the view that this is an unreasonable proposition to put to people having a wedding or funeral in church and is likely to cause more pastoral upset and damage than a marginal additional amount of income to the PCC.

Marriage

Is a Sunday wedding permitted?

There is no legal objection to marriage in church on Sunday between the usual hours of 8am to 6pm. The incumbent and the officiating priest must both consent, and it is appropriate for consent to be refused if holding a wedding on Sunday would interfere with the pattern of services arranged for the Sunday, or impose an unreasonable burden on the officiating priest in conducting Sunday services in other churches in the benefice.

Can banns of marriage be read at a Methodist service in church?

No, banns of marriage are required to be read at the principal Church of England service.

Where a marriage is to take place by special licence in a church which has no registers, where should the marriage be registered?

The books of the parish church (or the nearest parish church) are to be made available by prior arrangement with the minister of that church; but there is no obligation for the incumbent to make the books available when required and no obligation for the officiating minister to use those books. Any register books which can be obtained may be used.

If a person has a stroke and is left with severely impaired speech and they may not be able to make vows verbally, is it legally acceptable for them to signal their agreement by nodding at the appropriate moments?

Yes, it is sufficient for one of the persons who is to marry to sign their answers by a nod or shake of the head to indicate yes or no. Similarly, when one of the persons marrying does not speak English the important point is that the whole service must be in accordance with one of the authorised marriage services and the officiating cleric is obliged to endeavour to ensure that the persons to be married understands the service. During the marriage preparation the officiating cleric will generally need to spend more time introducing the service and paying particular attention to the essential parts which include the charge, promises and vows.

What is the minimum age of a witness at a wedding?

There is no minimum age of a witness at a wedding. However, although no minimum age is stipulated, it is imperative that the person chosen to fulfil the role of the witness is of sufficient maturity to fully appreciate and understand the nature of the ceremony of marriage.

Baptism

How many godparents or sponsors does a person to be baptised require?

The role of godparents is to speak on behalf of the infant being baptised during the baptism service itself and to support the parents in bringing the child up as a Christian within the family of the Church.

Godparents need be able to make the declarations and promises in the baptism service, which is why the Church of England requires all godparents to be baptised themselves and normally to be confirmed as well. It is not possible for a member of another faith to be a godparent.

Those who are baptised as infants normally have to have at least three godparents. At least two of them have to be of the same sex as the infant and one has to be of the opposite sex. If it proves impossible for there to be three godparents it is possible for a baptism to take place with onegodfather and one godmother. Parents can be godparents to their own children providing there is at least one other godparent as well.

Those who are older when they are baptised have sponsors rather than godparents. The role of the sponsor is not to speak for the person being baptised, but to formally present them for baptism and to help them in their growth as Christians after they have been baptised. There need to be at least two and preferably three sponsors and they are chosen by the candidates for baptism themselves. Like godparents they need to be baptised and normally also confirmed.

Further guidance on baptism can be found in Canons B21 - B25.

By whom and when are churchwardens chosen?

Churchwardens of a parish are chosen annually not later than 30 April in each year, by election by a meeting of the parishioners. A meeting of the parishioners for this purpose is a joint meeting of:

(a) persons whose names are entered in the church electoral roll of the parish; and

(b) persons resident in the parish whose names are entered on a register of local government electors by reason of such residence.

The rules relating to churchwardens are in the Churchwardens Measure 2001 (they are also published at the end of the Church Representation Rules as Supplementary Material).

In a Parish where there will not be two churchwardens and no volunteer to stand as treasurer or secretary what provision is there to go outside the parish to draft in help that will be legally acceptable?

Where a person other than a member of the council is appointed to act as treasurer or secretary, that person may be paid such remuneration (if any) as the council deems appropriate provided that such person shall not be eligible to be a member of the council. See Appendix II of the Church Representation Rules, paragraph 1(d) and (e). Clergy in each parish is recommended to have a copy of these Rules.

What does 'habitually attended public worship' mean? Where a non-resident applies to go on the electoral roll by virtue of the fact that they have attended public worship for a period of six months?

Habitual attendance is not defined in the Church Representation Rules. Legal opinion says habitual means a regular pattern of attendance; and the commonly held view is that attendance once a month (and of course more frequently) fulfils the requirement. Attendance must be at public worship - but this is not restricted to Sunday services. Regular attendance at a mid- week service is perfectly acceptable, or a combination of both.

Can a retired priest be on (a) the electoral roll and (b) PCC, and can he vote?

(a) Under the provisions of the Church Representation Rules, only lay persons are entitled to be entered onto the electoral roll. A priest ceases to be a lay person on being ordained into holy orders; a deacon, priest and bishop are clerks in holy orders. A clerk in holy orders is not eligible for entry on the electoral roll.

(b) A retired priest can be a co-opted member of the PCC. A co-opted member has the same voting rights as any other member.

Can a co-opted member of the PCC vote?

A co-opted member of the PCC has the same voting rights as any other member.

Can clergy (a) serve as Justices of the Peace (b) be called for jury service or (c) serve as a Member of Parliament?

(a) There is no legal prohibition of a Church of England clerk in holy orders accepting an invitation to be a Justice of the Peace. There is, however, a potential difficulty should a clerk in holy orders serving as a JP have to deal with the situation where a member of their congregation appears before them. Consequently, although a clerk in holy orders may undertake this role, the possible ramifications of this should be carefully considered.

(b) The Criminal Justice Act 2003 removed clergy from the list of persons disqualified from serving as a member of a jury and accordingly clergy can now be called to serve as a member of a jury. Clergy jury service is on the same basis as any other person and hence clergy can only seek excusal or deferral if they have good reason, for example, where the demands placed upon their time by jury service would prevent the proper exercise of their pastoral duties.

(c) The House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Act 2001 removed any disqualification from membership of the House of Commons that arose previously by reason of a person having been ordained to the office of priest or deacon. (The House of Commons (Clergy Disqualification) Act 1801 had previously disqualified clergy from such membership). However, Lords Spiritual continue to be disqualified from such membership.

Is a licence required for (a) the sale of alcohol in a church hall or (b) the provision of entertainment in a church hall?

The Licensing Act 2003 introduced an entirely new regime for liquor and public entertainment licensing. "Licensable activities" relevant to lettings and events in Churches and Church Halls are the sale of alcohol and the provision of "regulated entertainment".

(a) If an event within a Church Hall includes the sale of alcohol, a Temporary Event Notice will be required or, if more than 12 such events will be held in any year, a Premises Licence will be required.

(b) If an event within a Church Hall includes entertainment that is not part of a religious meeting or service, a Temporary Event Notice will be required or, if more than 12 such events will be held in any year, a Premises Licence will be required.

Applications for Temporary Event Notices and Premises Licences are made to the local authority. Further advice is available from the liquor licensing section of the local authority.

Get in Touch

With Lupton Fawcett on your side, you're taking control. Contact us today.

Enquiry Form

Please complete this form to make an enquiry and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Remember you can still call us on 0333 323 5292 or email us at ecclesiastical@luptonfawcett.law

 Yes
 No
Get in Touch