Evidence submitted by Revd Canon R B S
1. PERSONAL DETAILS
Clergyman in Newcastle Diocese since
Vicar of Alwinton Holystone and Alnham
1977-1983 where the Lord Chancellor is patron.
Rector of Glendale since 1983 where
the Lord Chancellor is one patron amongst others.
2. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
It is my understanding that there was some difficulty
in 1976 in finding a priest who would serve in the very rural
benefice of Alwinton with Holystone and Alnham. The intervention
of an eccentric figure with a suggestion, conveyed to the Lord
Chancellor's Office, that I should serve at Alwinton lead directly
to my being presented to the living. This particular presentation
evoked from the then Bishop of Newcastle the comment that "he
would not have readily connected my name with such an appointment".
I was born and schooled in inner-city Cardiff, educated at Durham,
served two curacies in urban Tyneside and now the Lord Chancellor
would create the opportunity to be a rural parson in one of England's
most remote benefices.
The promptings of an eccentric soul and the
action of the Lord Chancellor facilitated the most significant
"crossing of boundaries" in my entire working life.
For the past 26 years I have immersed myself in the life of a
rural society in North Northumberland that has provided countless
opportunities for Christian service and ministry. Such opportunity
would probably have eluded me but for the influence of the Lord
Chancellor's ecclesiastical patronage operating beyond the influence
of patronage systems within church diocesan structures.
3. AN EXAMPLE
It is a feature of the Lord Chancellor's patronage
that regular visits are made to parishes by his ecclesiastical
secretary. I recollect one such visit made to Alwinton when the
request was made that the secretary should have the opportunity
of meeting all six churchwardens and myself.
The secretary (one Col Salmon) engendered a
gentle but challenging conversation with the churchwardens on
the subject of maintenance of the ministry. His further inquiries
asked for details of parish policies on the re-imbursement of
the incumbents legitimate working expenses in one of England's
largest single cures. This conversation took place in the late
1970's when clergy stipends were at their lowest, and following
the hike in transport costs resulting from the oil crises. The
secretary's interest and sensitive handling of these issues lead
to a truly amazing growth in responsibility amongst lay church
members on the issues discussed. The Lord Chancellor's Ecclesiastical
Secretary on this occasion came as an interested and concerned
party for the life of the local church, but brought with him an
experience from elsewhere; his concern and care was evident, but
so was his independence.
4. A VIEW OF
In 1983 I moved to be Rector of Glendale, a
team ministry serving much of the Cheviot Hills. Here the Lord
Chancellor is one patron amongst several. When the Glendale Team
scheme was agreed under the Pastoral Measure of 1968 the Lord
Chancellor was allotted one choice of Rector in each five turns.
The remaining patrons form a college and act together to appoint
the Rector on the remaining four turns. I was an appointee of
the college of patrons but on occasion I have still received a
"pastoral" visit from the Lord Chancellor's Ecclesiastical
Secretary. His indications on such a visit was "to be in
touch if I thought that he as patron could be of help". Such
comments are helpful, supportive, and reassuring, and convey a
sense of connection to an "establishment" beyond immediate
5.1 Paragraph "2" demonstrated
the facility to cross boundaries by virtue of connection to Lord
Chancellor's patronage. Within that system of patronage there
would seem to be an offer open to clergy to cross boundaries between
dioceses, as well as to cross the cultural boundaries that separate
one kind of community from another or one kind of lifestyle from
another. I would not want to underestimate the value of a system
of patronage that facilitates clergy taking their experience from
one community to a very different community.
5.2 Paragraph "3" demonstrated
a system of patronage that has the capacity to bring both a caring
and independent voice to the life of a particular parish. Any
parish priest will know from time to time his vulnerabilities
in tackling certain aspects of parish life. To have a patron who
offers friendly support and who might even ask sensitive questions
is to be valued. This model of patronage is valuable to the pastor
who handles the spiritual care of others day by day, and who thereby
discovers his own vulnerability.
5.3 The Lord Chancellors patronage brings
to parochial life an "image" of establishment but in
the local church also appears as having an independence from the
immediate mechanisms of being part of the established church.
Anglican congregations are used to dealing with bishops, archdeacons,
registrars, diocesan chancellors, and other parts of the establishment
structure, but "establishment" feels very different
when someone from the very centre of government turns up one day
in a very remote rural parish and declares a genuine interest
in the place which he traces back to 1538. For a moment some very
remote rural places feel a real connection to the centre.
5.4 I have only good experiences of Lord
Chancellor's patronage of which to tell you. It can be argued
that the church needs a wide review of patronage systems. Lord
Chancellor's patronage might be used as a model of good practice
for other patrons to aspire to.
5.5 The committee has already indicated
that it wants to know which of the three Government Options would
be preferred as a future base for the exercise of Lord Chancellor's
patronage. My previous comments lead me to suggest that it is
not appropriate to pass the Lord Chancellors patronage to structures
within the church. Considering the common root of much of Lord
Chancellors Patronage and Crown Patronage, and that today they
share a common administration, a strong case must be made for
the removal of the historic split between the "King's Book"
and the "Lord Chancellor's Book".
Members of the Committee might be acquainted
with Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance marches"
written to reflect the mood of early Edwardian England. Equally
you might be acquainted with Elgar's "Cello Concerto"
written post World War One (1919). The difference in these two
pieces of music is striking. The first is one of bold imperialism,
the second is one of long and carefully crafted statements on
the cello bow reflective of history before the work of repair
is finally proposed.
1538 was a time of bold statements about an
established church: The Lord Chancellors patronage was part of
that bold statement. 2004 is a time to make carefully crafted
statements that reflect on the history that has come to pass before
the work of repair is proposed. The repair is not to re establish
the politics of 1538, but to enable the crossing of boundaries,
the preservation of independent and concerned voices, a sense
of connecting the local to the centre, and the establishing and
spreading of good practice.
Revd Canon R B S Burston
29 January 2004