Chapter 5 - Buildings & property
The teaching and discipline of the Church of England is set out in Canons F1 – F18
The description 'church buildings and property' covers three classes of property, which are dealt with below.
All buildings owned by a chaplaincy should be maintained in good condition. A thorough inspection every five years is recommended - see the building inspection guidance linked below. Any government building regulations applicable where the building is situated must be complied with.
5A - Consecrated church buildings, churchyards and cemeteries, ornaments of churches
— including things needed for divine service (font, holy table, communion vessels, robes and vestments, etc.) as set out in Canons F1-9
5.A.1 Once set apart for the worship of God, church buildings, their principal furnishings, churchyards and cemeteries, may not be altered, sold, given away, or destroyed without legal permission or faculty Faculty Written permission, in the name of the Bishop, to make permanent changes to a church building, its immediate surroundings, or its contents. granted by the Bishop, through the Suffragan Bishop.
5.A.2 Canon F17 sets out the duty of the chaplain and Churchwardens to maintain an inventory of this property. The inventory should be checked
- annually by the outgoing and incoming Churchwardens;
- by an outgoing and an incoming chaplain; and
- at a Visitation by the Bishop (either in person or by commissary Commissary A person holding a Commission from the Bishop to perform a particular role in place of the Bishop. ) or the Archdeacon.
5.A.3 When a chaplaincy's place of worship is relinquished, sold or demolished, its 'ornaments' remain under the Bishop's jurisdiction. If the chaplaincy is continuing they may be transferred to its new place of worship. If they are not needed, or if the chaplaincy is being dissolved, a copy of the inventory should be sent to the Archdeacon so that the Bishop may direct where the ornaments are to be used in future, or, if such use is not possible, what is to be done with them. See also this User Guide.
5B- Unconsecrated land and buildings
Unconsecrated land and buildings
eg., chaplaincy houses, including furniture and fittings
5.B.1 Some buildings are owned by the Diocesan Board of Finance, some by chaplaincy councils, some by trusts and societies for the benefit of a particular chaplaincy, or of the Diocese as a whole. All such buildings regardless of ownership have been given or bought for the work of the Church in the Diocese. No church building, therefore, should be sold, exchanged or given away before there has been consultation with the Archdeacon and the Diocesan Board of Finance (via the Chief Operating Officer/Diocesan Secretary), and a majority vote of the chaplaincy council is required.
5.B.2 Where a Chaplaincy Council is responsible for providing furnished accommodation for the chaplain, it will need to make financial provision for the maintenance and repair of the building and/or for the replacement of worn furnishings and fittings.
5.B.3 Some chaplaincy houses contain items of artistic or historical merit. These should be carefully maintained, and, if it is proposed to dispose of them for any reason, the Archdeacon's advice is required.
5C - Use of chaplaincy buildings by third-party organisations
5.C.1 If a building owned by the chaplaincy (or for which it has control by virtue of a lease or rental agreement) is to be used by another organisation for a purpose unrelated to the work of the chaplaincy (for example: for worship, as a concert venue, a uniformed youth group), this will require the agreement of the Chaplain together with either the Churchwardens or the Chaplaincy Council, bearing in mind
- Local legal requirements for health and safety.
- If children or vulnerable adults are involved, the provisions of the Diocesan Safeguarding Policy must be followed
- Insurance of the building and those taking part in the event
- Any possible damage to the reputation of the Chaplaincy locally or internationally
- The material presented should not conflict with Christian teaching and values; greater discrimination being applied if the building concerned is consecrated.
- Consideration of the time needed to set up before an event, and time needed to clear away and clean up.
More detailed requirements, together with links to model agreements and safeguarding declarations here
5.C.2 The Archdeacon must give approval:
- In case of any doubt,
- Before entering into any agreement for recurring use.
5.C.3 Any contract for recurring use should be binding for no more than two years from the date of agreement, but may on its expiry be extended for a similar period.
5.C.4 Any expectations about the use of storage space should be clarified up front and considered as part of the agreement.
5D- Other property belonging to a Chaplaincy Council
This may, of course, be sold or replaced by a proper decision of the Chaplaincy Council, advised by the Archdeacon. Seeking such advice becomes mandatory in the case of other property exceeding the value (in 2023) of £2500, for an individual item or collection of items (e.g. a house clearance). In making a decision, members of a Chaplaincy Council will naturally take account of the fact that they are not only legal trustees of property but also, so to speak, the spiritual trustees of the congregation; they will consider the generosity and work of its past members alongside the opportunities for mission afforded into the future.
5E - Cemeteries and Burial Plots
Every cemetery or burial plot, whether in the ownership of the Diocese, of a chaplaincy or of a local trust, must be used and maintained in conformity with national laws, and any local regulations.
5F - Bishop's Faculty
5.F.1 By consecration church buildings and their contents, churchyards and cemeteries are given over to the service of God in perpetuity Perpetuity Until Christ appears again. . This includes not only the structure and decoration of the building, but also all windows, monuments and fixed furnishings, the organ and in particular the communion plate and other things required for worship.
5.F.2 It follows that, as has been stated above, they may not be built, purchased, altered, sold, given away, or destroyed without the granting of a Bishop's Faculty through the Suffragan Bishop.
Minor repairs and redecorations do not require a faculty, but the advice of the Archdeacon should be sought before any extensive work is undertaken. What may seem “minor” to some may not seem minor to all.
5.F.3 If a new building is being contemplated, or any change or addition to an existing consecrated church building, its ornaments or fittings, or to a consecrated burial place, or to things like communion vessels which have been set apart for worship, no significant expenditure should be undertaken, nor should any money be raised, until a Bishop's Faculty has been granted.
The purpose of the Bishop's Faculty procedure is to protect the gifts of past generations from inappropriate changes, alterations or disposal, and to ensure that any changes are consonant with the doctrine of the Church of England.
5.F.4 Consultation on building changes should proceed with a very early conversation with the Archdeacon. This will ensure that discussion in the Council and eventual consultation with the congregation can take place with everyone having full clarity as to the options.
To apply for a Faculty, the chaplain and/or Churchwardens must write to the Archdeacon and include the following:
a description of what is proposed (including the text of any inscription);
the rationale behind the proposal
relevant plans, drawings or photographs;
a copy of the minute (including voting figures) of the Chaplaincy Council approving the application for the Bishop's Faculty.
5.F.5 If approved by the Archdeacon, the chaplaincy will forward the duly recommended originating documentation, together with the petition from the Archdeacon, to the Diocesan Secretary who will consult the Suffragan Bishop over the appropriate course of action.
In the case of straightforward applications (for example, an appropriately worded memorial plaque), a Bishop's Faculty will be granted.
5.F.6 The Diocesan Secretary and Suffragan Bishop may feel that it is necessary to seek wider, objective or informed advice on the work proposed and call a meeting of a faculty advisory committee.
The committee will normally consist at least of:
- the Suffragan Bishop,
- the Diocesan Bishop's Chaplain,
- a member of the Church Buildings Council
- the Diocesan Secretary (also acting as secretary to this committee).
The committee may approve the issue of a Bishop's Faculty. However, it may ask for amendment to the proposals or require the plans to be delayed pending obtaining further information and/or seeking specialist advice.
Exceptionally, the matter may be referred to the Chancellor of the Diocese, who will then decide whether or not the Bishop's Faculty should be granted.
5.F.7 Only when the Bishop's Faculty has been issued is it right for an order to be given for work to be put in hand or for expenditure to be incurred.
5.F.8 All costs incurred by the chaplaincy, the Archdeacon or the DAC in gaining professional advice are borne by the Chaplaincy Council. If the Archdeacon needs to visit the chaplaincy the travel costs are borne by the Chaplaincy Council. A further small charge is made to cover the costs of administration in the Diocesan Office (presently £20 for each Bishop's Faculty issued).
5G - Memorials and Inscriptions in churches
Care should be taken by chaplains, Churchwardens, and others who may be consulted, that the form of a proposed memorial or inscription is both historically accurate and suitable for a church.
Intending donors should, whenever possible, be encouraged to commemorate the departed by a gift which will be of use in worship, or otherwise in the life of the parish, rather than by a memorial tablet.
5H - Trusts
When property is vested in a body of trustees it is important that the requirements of national and local law are met, and that the full number of trustees is maintained. The advice of the Diocesan Registrar or Diocesan Secretary should be sought when appointing a new or replacement trustee.
5J - Service and other registers
Each chaplaincy has a responsibility to maintain a number of official registers which should be available for examination whenever the relevant Archdeacon (or indeed the Bishop) conducts a visitation. They ought also to be checked each year before the Annual Meeting. They should be of good quality, written up in permanent ink (as supplied for example by www.registrarsink.co.uk, since they serve both as a permanent record as well as historical documentation.
5.J.1 The service register should record each service held (whether or not it is also recorded in another register), with date, time, the names of officiant and preacher, and numbers of those attending and those receiving communion. The numbers should be categorised by age. By including each service held, the service register gives a complete picture of the worshipping life of the community and is useful for the gathering of Statistics for Mission, in the annual return made to the Diocese.
5.J.2 There must be a baptism register recording for each baptism the name of the baptised, their date of birth and their parents’ names.
5.J.3 Where it is the practice of the chaplaincy to admit the baptised to Holy Communion before confirmation, there may be a special register for this; otherwise all pertinent details should be recorded in the service register as in the Church of England guidelines.
5.J.4 A separate confirmation register should be kept by the chaplaincy, and signed by the confirming bishop. When candidates from another chaplaincy are confirmed, they should be recorded only in the confirmation register of that chaplaincy, which their Chaplain will bring to the service for the bishop to sign (Canon B39).
5.J.5 A separate marriage register should be kept if required under local regulations, but should not be used to record a Service of Prayer and Dedication for any marriage which has been contracted elsewhere. Such Services of Prayer and Dedication should be recorded in the service register only.
5.J.6 A separate register may be kept to record details of funerals, burials, cremations, and interments of cremated remains. Such a register may be required under local regulations. Reference in the entry to a certificate of death may be helpful.
5.J.7 Old register books should be preserved in an environment which ensures their longevity. Local regulations may require the surrender of certain registers to a civil archive. Otherwise records should be archived by the Diocese in Europe.
When a service or other register is full the Chaplain (or Churchwardens in a vacancy) should:
- draw a line through the page following the last entry;
- inscribe: ‘This register is now closed so that it can be deposited in the Diocese in Europe Archive held at the Metropolitan Archives in the City of London.’
- date and sign it; and return it to the Diocesan Office which will forward it to the Diocesan Archivist, or to the civil authorities as appropriate.
5K - other record books
Each chaplaincy has a responsibility to maintain a number of official record books which should be available for examination whenever the relevant Archdeacon (or indeed the Bishop) conducts a visitation. They ought also to be checked each year before the Annual Meeting. They should be of good quality, written up in permanent ink, since they serve both as a permanent record as well as historical documentation.
5.K.1 Chaplaincy inventory and Log Book.
The churchwardens should keep an up-to-date inventory of the contents of the church building, and a record (known as a 'terrier') of any land owned by the chaplaincy. A photographic record of all valuable items should also be kept as part of a file of insurance certification. A careful log (supported by photographic record where possible) should be kept of all repairs additions and alterations to a church and its contents, or to a cemetery, including copies of all Bishop's Faculties obtained, local planning permissions or other consent for work, quinquennial Quinquennial Anything (but especially an inspection of property) that happens once every five years. inspection reports, and plans of graveyards or interment of ashes inside a church building. Suitable record books may be purchased from the Church House Bookshop.
5.K.2 Church Business
The papers of the chaplaincy should be kept in order especially with respect to the status of any chaplaincy or congregation as a legal entity under local law. Further records that should be maintained include the electoral roll, the minute books of the Chaplaincy Council and the annual general meeting, correspondence and contracts entered into by the Chaplaincy Council, any local authority permits or licences, safety records relating to health and safety assessments.
Personnel records will include references for parish employees, job descriptions and contracts of employment, material relating to the safeguarding procedures and records relating to discipline or dismissal of employees. Data shall be maintained in accordance with local Data Protection regulation.
5L - Final disposal of property
All trust deeds and other titles to property should, for safety's sake, include a provision that, in the event of the dissolution of the chaplaincy, the property is to be used for the benefit of the Diocese in Europe (Church of England), or, if national law requires, the Church of England in that country, as the Bishop of the Diocese shall direct.