An extraordinary word, used of archbishops and bishops because they have the exclusive right in their own persons to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction within the areas for which they are accountable.   The last thing these people are is ordinary in the common meaning of the word!


This is the route by which a layman or lay woman becomes ordained into the ministry of the Church of England.   Carried out by the bishop of the diocese in which the ordinand will be, or is, serving.   Technically, only priests are ordained; deacons are “made”, but the distinction is rarely observed these days.


A person appointed to play the organ (in parishes where they have one!) and often as choirmaster as well.   Such people are increasingly being referred to as “Director of Music”.   Often voluntary, they continue to provide an indispensable service to the worship of the church.   Sadly, in cases where, on the appointment of an organist, a parish or an incumbent fail to agree a well-defined job description, friction can occur.   There is now a measure that guides this important relationship.

Oxford Movement

A movement that began in Oxford around 1833, partly as a reaction to the Evangelical revival of the preceding decades.   It had as its main purpose a re-emphasis on Catholic doctrines and traditions which had become less prominent in the preceding century.


For long thought to be the glory of the Church of England, the parish system still has many advantages.   The whole country is covered by a system of individual parishes, each a defined geographical area, so that every member of the population lives in a parish and has, as a consequence, the right to be married in the parish church and to be ministered to by the incumbent of the parish.   Conversely, the incumbent has the duty of ministering to the population of the parish.   This made excellent sense when parishes were more or less self-contained, in the sense that the population lived, worked, made their recreation, were born, married and died within the same community.   Even in the larger towns this made sense, but as a meaningful concept it began to show signs of strain during and after the Industrial Revolution.   Nevertheless, the idea that every member of the population has a Church of England ordained man or woman responsible, at least in theory, for their spiritual welfare is a noble one and not lightly to be abandoned.   The changed social structure allied to the shortage of ordained clergy has led to a number of initiatives intended to modify the simple parochial system in a manner intended to be helpful.   (See Teams and groups; plurality; presentation, suspension of; Pastoral committees)

Parochial Church Council

Since the passing of the Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1921, the laity have had a formal place in the government of the church.   This was confirmed in the Synodical Government Measure 1970, in which the procedures of election to a PCC and the powers of a PCC are spelled out: it is made clear that PCC and incumbent must cooperate in the running of a parish.


Loosely used as a title for all parish clergy, but strictly only applicable to incumbents, who are the “personae” or local representatives of the church.

Pastoral Measure

This is the measure under which a number of possibilities are opened for the reorganisation of parishes.   It is, to a large extent, a reaction to the diminishing number of ordained clergy and, therefore, of parish priests.   Each diocese has the duty of electing a Pastoral Committee to which proposals for reorganisation have to be referred for discussion and, if deemed appropriate, recommended to the bishop.   The possibilities include bringing parishes together in teams or groups, suspending the appointment of a new incumbent following a vacancy, or, as a consequence of reorganisation, making a church redundant.   The committee consists of both clergy and laity and includes the bishop or his representative and the archdeacon in whose archdeaconry the proposed reorganisation lies.   Certain recommendations of a Pastoral Committee have to be approved by the Privy Council before they can be effected.   Reorganisation results, sometimes, in truly magnificent announcements like the following, from the ”Church Times” of 13 August 2004:   “The Revd XYZ, assistant curate in the Daventry, Ashby St Ledgers, Braunston, Catesby, Hellidon, Staverton, and Welton Team Ministry, to be Assistant Priest of Market Overton, remaining also Assistant Priest designate of Oakham with Hambleton and Egleton and Braunston with Brooke, with particular responsibility for Langham, Market Overton, and Ashwell (Peterborough)”.   See Pastoral Measure 1968 and Pastoral Measure 1983


Every parish has its patron, who may be an individual, a corporate body, the bishop, the archbishop, the Crown.   Who actually is the patron is a matter of the history of the parish and of its origins.   Many originated as the giver of the church itself, their reward being the right to present the incumbent of the parish to the bishop for ordination.   In these days, their most important remaining duty is the presentation of the individual selected to be the new incumbent of a parish when a vacancy occurs.   In this situation the patron is joined by others – the bishop or his representative, the rural (or area) dean, a representative of the wider church, and two people chosen by the PCC of the parish under consideration.   That group can decide how to go about their task – whether, for example, to advertise the vacancy, how to interview candidates – although there are some necessary steps on the way.   For a full statement see Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986. 


This has to be dealt with, but I’m glad it comes well down the alphabet!   It has been a source of concern within the Church of England for more than a century, but is quiescent at the moment.    Patronage is essentially the exercise by the patron of his right to present the new incumbent of a parish for appointment by the diocesan bishop.   A revision in 1980 of the arrangements then in force resulted in new arrangements that have proved more satisfactory in practice, not least in the involvement of the parish in the appointment process.   Probably the more important gain is the requirement that, unless the patron is a communicant member of the Church of England or of a church in communion with it the patron must appoint someone who meets this requirement to act for him.  There has been a widespread view that the whole ethos of patronage is out-dated (certainly if one were devising today a system for appointing clergy to parishes one would be most unlikely to arrive at the current system).   The problem has always been to come up with any new arrangement that can command the support it would need to be accepted.   Although it can no longer be sold, as it once could, the right of patronage is treated from a legal standpoint much like property; it can, for example, be bequeathed.   See Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986.


Used of a church that is outside the parochial system, into which the vast majority of churches fit.   Peculiars are practically all royal peculiars, the appointment of whose minister is directly in the hands of the Sovereign.   Examples are Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel, Windsor.


The Pastoral Measure 1968 made provision for an ordained minister to be the incumbent of more than one parish.   The resulting situation is known as a plurality, but is resorted to as little as possible for obvious reasons.   

Prayer books

Note the plural!   Once upon a time, only one prayer book was used throughout the Church of England and its use was compulsory.   Fundamentally, it was the work of Archbishop Cranmer at the time of the Reformation, and was notable for its protestant theological basis, not only in the actual liturgy itself, but also in the rubrics (instructions to the officiant).   Early in the twentieth century, steps were begun to modernise its language in order to make it more acceptable to the worshipper of that time.   A revised prayer book (which, it must be said, as well as modernising the language moved back to pre-reformation theology) was drafted and put before Parliament for approval (before the advent of synodical government any changes in the doctrine and practices within the Church of England had to be approved by Parliament in order to become effective).   The new prayer book (known as the 1928 prayer book) was, after heated debates, turned down and the possibility of modernisation had to wait another three decades.   It became practicable with the establishment of synodical government, first in a series of so-called experimental services authorised for a specific period.   These, after trial and amendment, were collected in the Alternative Service Book of 1980, now superseded, after further substantial liturgical revision, by Common Worship published in 2000.   The Book of Common Prayer remains a defining document in the theology of the Church of England.


In some cathedrals, the honorary canons are known as prebendaries.


A rather horrid word, used of the process by which a clergyman moves from being an incumbent to a “higher” role such as canon, archdeacon, dean or bishop.   Mostly avoided these days.

Presentation, suspension of

Another tool provided by the Pastoral Measure 1968 for use when a diocese is considering pastoral reorganisation in an area.   Should a vacancy occur in one of the parishes under consideration, the diocesan Pastoral Committee may recommend suspension of presentation until the consideration is completed.   The minister thus appointed is known as the priest-in-charge.   Suspension of presentation retains a measure of flexibility in the situation that would be lost by the appointment of a new incumbent with the concomitant freehold.   It must be said that the power to suspend presentation is viewed in a somewhat jaundiced manner by those who claim to have seen it used in a manipulative manner. 

Prime Minister

Mentioned here because he is the mouthpiece of the Crown in appointments to incumbencies and to higher clergy.   In these appointments he is aided by his Secretary for Appointments.   


As distinct from catholic, one whose doctrine is that of the reformation, with its emphasis on justification by faith.


The Church of England is divided geographically into two provinces, that of Canterbury (the senior of the two) with 30 dioceses and that of York with 14.   A province is the jurisdiction of an archbishop.


In the days when the Book of Common Prayer set the agenda for all the services of the church, there were appointed psalms for every service of Morning or Evening Prayer and the whole Psalter was covered in this way every month.   Psalms play a much less part in the worship services today, although a number of modern hymns and songs are firmly based on them, if not metrical versions of them.    As the hymnbook of the Old Testament, the psalms played an important part in Jewish worship and, arguably, still have much to offer for modern worship and, perhaps even more, for Christian spirituality.


A once prominent item of church furniture, but much less so in modern churches and in older churches that have undergone refurbishment.   The pulpit was the place from which the sermon was delivered, a constituent part of the services of the church that was regarded as sufficiently important to warrant having an item of furniture associated with it.   For that reason, the pulpit raised the preacher above the congregation so that he could be heard more easily, and for the same reason some pulpits were equipped with sounding boards above them.   See also font, Holy Table


After undergoing appropriate rigorous training, lay people may be made “readers”, an authorised office that entitles them, subject to the bishop’s permission, to lead worship, preach, take funerals and carry out other functions usually performed by clergy.   Readers are a vital source of ministry in these days of shortage of ordained clergy.   Many parishes would not be able to function effectively without them.


Historically, in parishes in which the great tithes were payable to the incumbent, the incumbent was termed the rector of the parish.   See also vicar.


A term associated with the Book of Common Prayer, it refers to the instructions that are interspersed in the actual liturgical content of services.   They include, for example, guidance on whether the congregation should stand or sit or kneel at particular points in a service and all other necessary “stage directions”.   The word has largely dropped out of common use with the gradual disappearance of the use of the Book of Common Prayer. but more recent prayer books necessarily contain a minimum amount of such direction.


An incumbent has the free use of the parsonage house of his parish and is paid a regular income, known as a stipend.   This is, in theory, enough to relieve him of financial anxiety without allowing him to live in luxury!   Stipends are regulated nationally, as are the emoluments of all other clergy.    


One in receipt of a stipend.


An assistant bishop in a diocese, often given specific responsibility for a geographical area or area of work e.g hospitals.


A body of clergy and laity representing an appropriate electorate with powers of decision making in ecclesiastical matters.   The Church of England has established synods at national, diocesan and deanery levels.   See also Synodical government.

Synodical government

With the passing of the Synodical Government Measure 1970, the Church of England entered a new era, in which decision making, by and large, passed into the hands of clergy and laity acting in cooperation by way of a new hierarchy of bodies in which both were represented, in principle in equal numbers.   At the national level is the General Synod, and at diocesan and deanery levels diocesan and deanery synods, each of which is discussed separately.   Each synod consists of houses, whether of bishops or clergy or laity.   The clergy and laity are elected by the appropriate constituency.   Voting is mainly by the synod as a whole, but provision is made for voting by houses in which case a motion, to be passed, must be passed in all houses.   A classic example of this occurred in a vote in the General Synod on a motion to abolish patronage, which failed only because of a tie in the House of Bishops; it was passed in the other two houses.   (See Synodical Government Measure 1970)


The Pastoral Measure 1970 provided for parishes in a specified area to be linked together as a team, and made arrangements for the appointment of a team rector and team vicars, whose responsibilities might be geographical or in terms of some form of specialisation.   See also group.   See also Team and Group Ministries Measure 1995.

Theological colleges

Full-time training for ordinands is provided in the Church of England by a number of independent theological colleges, each with its own governing body.   The syllabuses to which they work must be approved by the General Synod’s Board for Ministry, and they are inspected regularly by representatives of that body.   The fees payable for the education of ordinands at these colleges come from central church funds.   The colleges tend to represent one or other of the three streams of theological thinking referred to in the entry under authority above.   There is pressure, varying in intensity from time to time, for the colleges to lose their independence, as part of a desire to reduce the effectiveness of these individual streams of thought.


One of the ways in which new parishes used to be endowed was through the patron’s provision of property – usually land – to be owned by the parish, which would then have the use of the ensuing income.   The consequence of this was a considerable variation in parish incomes, depending on the value of the tithes, and a considerable variation in the stipends the clergy.   This was rectified in 1936 when the ownership of all tithe land was transferred to the appropriate diocese and at the same time clergy were paid on a uniform national scale.


The incumbent of most parishes is known as the vicar, originally because he was appointed to carry out the duties of the rector.   This distinction is no longer applicable.   


The diocese whose bishop is next senior to the Archbishop of Canterbury and is, in fact, the Archbishop of York, with jurisdiction over the Northern province.


Much emphasis has been placed on the need, within the Church of England, to retain the interest and commitment of young people.   Statistics show losses between the number of children involved in their early years and the number of teenagers still involved.   There is a sad and substantial leakage after confirmation.   A recent (2002) report submitted to the General Synod had suggestions for alleviating this.   It was entitled “Good new for young people” and outlined a strategy designed to retain the interest of young people in their crucial years.