Using our time wisely: exploring ways to spend less time in meetings

Published on: 1 June 2018

‘God so loved the world that he didn’t send a committee!' & One Church, Eight Buildings

The Ven Steven Betts, Archdeacon of Norfolk

Someone once remarked that ‘God so loved the world that he didn’t send a committee!’ It is a humorous reworking of a key verse of the Gospels, but there is clearly a point to the jest. Every minute and hour that we unnecessarily spend in meetings is time when we could be engaged in mission, or care of others, or prayer or even just relaxation. As an Archdeacon I have to spend many hours each week in meetings and I would be the first to admit that there is real value in discussing and debating, and that, as another expression goes, ‘two minds are better than one.’

However, there is a quiet revolution in some places where the administrative burden on both clergy and lay people alike is being gradually eased, by reducing the number of PCC and other meetings. Examples include each PCC meeting on the same evening and in the same place with a common first part and then differing meetings around the building for the separate parishes in the benefice straight afterwards, or a single parish benefice with all the churches in the same parish (only one PCC and one annual meeting), or pairing PCCs to halve the number in a multi-parish benefice.

Of course, whatever we do needs to be effective and assist in our planning for mission and service but freeing up time for all of us is surely worth contemplating to make the best use of our time together in discerning God’s will for us as churches and individual Christians.

The Revd Keith Dally, Priest in Charge of the United Benefice of King’s Beck

Five parishes (Banningham, Colby, Felmingham, Suffield and Tuttington) came together in 1969 to form the “Felmingham Group of Parishes”, whilst retaining their individual PCCs. In 1993, Skeyton joined the Group. Since 1969, a Group Council had overseen the collection and administration of monies raised for the Parish Share and other central costs of the Group, including the incumbent’s expenses.

The Charities Act 1993 meant that this informal arrangement could not continue and so discussions began to formalise the Group and create a Single-Parish Benefice under one PCC. Each existing PCC had to agree to the proposal, which then formed the basis of a draft Pastoral Scheme. The process was delayed for a while when the Group went into interregnum in 1996 but once the Scheme had been agreed by all parties, it was then subject to approval by the Church Commissioners and Privy Council. The United Benefice finally came into being on 1 May 2000. The King’s Beck is the stream that runs roughly north/south through the Benefice and the name was agreed after several suggestions were advertised in the Parish Magazine.

The new PCC retained overall governance of the Benefice but set up Church and Churchyard sub-committees for each church building to oversee the general maintenance of the fabric and fundraising for that purpose. Two Churchwardens are nominated by each village but, at the APCM, they become Churchwardens for the wider Benefice. As well as
the Churchwardens, the villages appoint two people to serve on the PCC; thus, the whole Benefice is represented at meetings, which are held bi-monthly.

The key role of the PCC lies in promoting the whole mission of the church across the Benefice and managing its financial affairs, including addressing the needs of the Parish Share. All weekly offerings, fees, etc. are handled centrally and the individual church committees are asked to provide a fixed contribution from their fundraising into PCC funds towards the Share, insurances, etc.

Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Keith Dally, commented, “when I arrived here in 2013, I was the envy of many of my colleagues – one PCC, one Annual Meeting and one Parish Share to deal with! However, like them, we struggle for resources, human and financial, particularly with six buildings all needing lots of maintenance. As this is a half-time post, we restricted the number of services to one per Sunday on a rota around the Benefice. Festival services are shared between the churches, dependent upon their facilities. A good core of folk will move around but there are still some who only attend when it’s ‘their’ church. A number of fundraising events for PCC funds are held during the year when people from across the Benefice turn out to help. This all helps to maintain the ‘one family’ feel of the Benefice.”

The Benefice is about to become bigger, with the addition of two more parishes – Sloley and Swanton Abbott. The central infrastructure is certainly helping to bed in the changes and provide new resources and gifts that will benefit the whole Parish.

Our strap-line is ‘One Church, Eight Buildings’.

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