Geo-caches in churchyards
In the Diocese of Norwich the management and maintenance of our churchyards rest with the Parochial Church Council of the relevant parish or, where it has been closed by Order in Council, with the local authority. Nevertheless, all churchyards are also subject to the authority of the Bishop as exercised by the Chancellor in the Consistory Court through the Faculty Jurisdiction.
Under the Faculty Jurisdiction permission (‘a faculty’) is required to undertake any alterations, additions, removals or repairs to the fabric, ornaments or furniture of a church or churchyard. Enquiries have been made about whether a faculty is required for the introduction of a geo-cache into a churchyard.
A geo-cache is a non-permanent small box or container which is placed in a given location which is identified by GPS co-ordinates and often by additional ‘clues’. The caches provide the objects for real-world ‘treasure hunts’. They are widely used by organizations, such as the National Trust, to encourage visits by the public to their properties and estates. In the context of our churchyards, geo-caches may be a good way to encourage visitors into our churchyards and often, therefore, into our churches. Further information about geocaching can be found at www.geocaching.com.
A geo-cache which is not attached to and does not interfere with the land or fixtures and fittings in a churchyard does not require faculty permission. Nevertheless, if a geo-cache is to be placed in a churchyard the permission of the PCC should be sought. In deciding whether to permit the introduction of a geo-cache into a churchyard the PCC should consider the following issues:
Guidance on adding a geo-cache
- Sensitive location – a geo-cache should be placed where it will not interfere with the structure of any graves or memorials or risk causing upset to the bereaved. A natural hiding place, such as an existing hollow in a tree is often the best location;
- Fixings – a geo-cache should not be fixed to walls, memorials or any other fixtures in a churchyard. They should not be buried;
- Guidance – adequate clues or guidance should be included on the website entry for the cache to ensure that the cache can be discovered without the need to interfere with memorials etc within the churchyard;
- In the event that the location of a cache is found to have caused upset, the PCC should consider its relocation, which can be achieved promptly and with little, if any, difficulty.
Ruth Arlow, former Chancellor of the Diocese of Norwich (content written: 22 July 2013)