Benefice PCC

The Astwell Benefiice

St Mary Magdalene Helmdon with Stuchbury and St Lawrence Radstone

and St James the Great Syresham with St John the Evangelist Whitfield,

 St Mary & St Peter Lois Weedon with Weston and Plumpton

and St Mary the Virgin Wappenham


The Astwell Benefice Working Party Recommendations

To: The PCC members and Officers of the Astwell Benefice Churches,

In January 2017 you tasked us with looking at the various options open to us as a Benefice and to gain answers to matters of concern that had been raised by both individuals and whole PCCs.

You ask us to come up with a recommendation for the PCCs.

Since then we have met as a group on several occasions where the discussions have been open and frank and the concerns of our respective PCCs were always included and discussed at length.

In May we met with Archdeacon Richard and discussed a number of options and questions with him and received advice from him on how we might proceed.

On his advice, we have also corresponded with Andrew Roberts, the Diocesan Secretary, who has been able to answer some of the more “legal” questions as well as offer us further advice.

Having been satisfied that all our concerns and queries have been addressed, and after much prayer as well as discussion, we believe the following proposal is one that we can recommend to PCC members and officers of all our Churches.

We would ask you to read this document through carefully and give it prayerful consideration before and during Monday’s meeting.

On behalf of

The Astwell Benefice Working Party

Penny Bonner, Bill Elkington, Frank Hunter,

 Jane Rymell, Sheena Warren and David Wright

Commended to the PCCs by

Reverend Carole Peters-King

Wiggy Smith

The Ven Richard Ormston

















Page 3                         A summary of the Work of the Working Party so far

Page 4                         “A Fourth Option”– a break down of the Recommendation

Page 5 -6                    Composition of a new joint Benefice PCC

Page 7                         Parish “Fabric Committees”            

Page 9                         Keeping things local             

Page 10                      Appendix 1 - Procedure and Voting

Page 11                      Appendix 2 – Forming the Joint Benefice PCC timescales

Page 12                      Appendix 3 - Terms of Reference

Page 13                      Appendix 4. - Answers from the Diocese






A Summary of the Work of the Working Party so far


Having looked at the three options laid out in the document

“ Finding a way forward in Christ” which offered three basic options

1. “Remaining Parish Focused”,

In essence this was staying as we are.

The Working Party noted only one of the discussion groups at our January meeting thought this was a viable option, but they had assumed this would still allow financial input from the wider Benefice, which was not a considered part of this option.

2. “Sharing the Load”

This option offered an informal closer working relationship though a “Benefice Council” which could discuss worship and oversee any joint fundraising activities that might help to raise money jointly for our Share.

While several of the January discussion groups favoured this as a way forward, the Working Party felt that a “Council” that needed to have all its decisions ratified by each individual PCC created an extra level of bureaucracy that was cumbersome,  time consuming and possibly even unworkable.

3. “Working Together”

This option suggested uniting our governance by joining together under a single “super” PCC.

Whilst this was also favoured by several of the discussion groups, the Working Party also noted the concerns of PCC members as to how this would work legally, how it would effect the autonomy of parishes and how individual PCC funds would be managed. There was also a concern that not every parish would be willing to work together to make this viable.  There was also the concern that this would involve a lengthy legal process.


The Working Party at their meetings took into account the pros and cons of each option. They noted that at present some of our PCCs are struggling to find officers and members and that these individual parishes are struggling to meet their Parish Share commitments, which in turn means that, as a Benefice we are not meeting our Benefice Share of £56,000.

It was also noted that PCC meetings are taken up mainly with concerns about payment of Share and as a result matters such as Worship and Mission can be relegated.

It was also noted that when we work together we support each other in Christ’s Mission. Services and Mission opportunities see far higher attendance numbers and these economies of scale are applied to our fundraising capabilities.

Having discussed all three options and taken the advice of both the Archdeacon and Diocesan Secretary the Working Party has decided not to recommend any of the above to the PCCs, but instead to recommend a “4th option”.

This “fourth” option will see responsibilities for the buildings remaining at Parish level, but allowing Ministry, Mission and its costs to be met as a Benefice.

We believe this option will allow us, as a Benefice, to create a bespoke solution that works for all of our parishes, keeping them all as centres of worship into the future.

 “The Fourth Option”

A three-year trial with a Benefice PCC

The proposal is that each of our four PCCs representing our six parishes would devolve their powers for a three-year trial period to one single “Benefice PCC”.

This Benefice PCC would be responsible for Mission and Ministry across all six churches and would source funds for the costs associated with this, that is the Benefice Share and the day-to-day costs incurred in ministering to the Benefice.

At present the Benefice Share is subdivided between the six churches and each church is responsible for its Parish Share, while they also contribute an amount each month to the Benefice costs.

It is hoped these allocated funds would under this scheme be managed centrally and supplemented by Benefice-wide fundraising events.

The care of the individual Church Buildings themselves and oversight of existing PCC and church-related charities and funds would remain Parish based through the formation of individual Parish “Fabric Committees”.

These Parish-based autonomous committees would oversee the maintenance of the fabric of their buildings and would manage the funds that pay for this and the utility bills and insurance for that building.

These Parish-based Committees would be managing the funds that are already being raised within each Parish by PCC, friends to pay for the utilities, insurance and maintenance of the fabric as well as any Quinquennial works.

The Astwell Benefice PCC.

This would be made up of about 4 ex-officio officers and approximately 10/11 representatives from across the parishes (see below).

As this number of members is similar to the number of Helmdon PCC and most PCC of bigger churches, this is not considered to be in any way unwieldy.

This “Benefice PCC” would create a Committee Structure for specific issues (see below). It was felt that as this Committee Structure already works well at Helmdon and is a common practice for larger PCCs, this would create a workable and efficient structure for the governance of the Benefice.


As there is one Benefice PCC there would be a single APCM where reports from every Committee, and the various parish groups would be presented and elections would take place for PCC members and Officers.

(To which all the parishes would be invited, probably combining this with a meal or other event to get people along!)

At Parish level  

Each church would keep its own Vestry Meeting to elect its Churchwardens and at the same time hold a Parish Church meeting to elect members of its Fabric Committee and publish their reports.

Each Church would keep their own electoral role officers, who would report back to the “Benefice APCM” and as such their role would not change significantly.

Composition of the new Joint Benefice PCC

It is suggested that the Astwell Benefice PCC would be made up of the following members:

Parish Representatives

One representative from each Parish elected each year at a Benefice APCM from and by the electoral role of each church.

This hopefully would get people inspired by the idea and through hustings and elections to feel consulted and empowered.

There would also be a second representative from Helmdon, Syresham, Lois, Wappenham, and this would be a Churchwarden from these churches.

A Benefice PCC Treasurer

A Benefice PCC Secretary

Both these posts would be appointed by the Benefice PCC

We would hope these posts would be appointed from present PCC officers who were willing to serve on this body and so these would not need to be paid posts

A Benefice PCC Safeguarding Officer

This may well in practice be a team made up of our present 3 officers, with one reporting back to PCC meeting

Benefice Deanery Synod Representatives 

Our present representatives would remain in post if they are willing

There would also be

A lay-chair would be elected from these elected members.

The Benefice Rector and The Benefice Reader

 There would be provision made for any further extra ordained and licenced clergy serving in the Benefice to be part of this body .


The Committee Structure of the Benefice PCC

The Benefice PCC would delegate responsibility for the different aspects of their work down to” Committees” which would undertake this work and report back to Benefice PCC meeting which would take place around 4 times a year.

With provision made for emergency or extraordinary meetings to take place when needed.

It is expected that during the “start up period” more meetings would be necessary to create the structure of governance.

Minutes of these Committee Meetings would be circulated to all Super PCC members after each meeting and to other committee members when and if appropriate, for example where there is an overlap in activities.

It was noted that this happens very successfully on a parish scale at Helmdon at the moment

These Committees would be made up of some members of the Benefice PCC with other committee members (as many as it was felt necessary), made up of those who had a interest in the Committee’s subject matter. 

The Rogation Committee was used here as an example:

This Committee, containing both PCC and non-PCC members from across the parishes, works as a Benefice-wide Committee reporting back in to the Benefice,( at present via the Rector, but in future to a Benefice PCC).

The Committees

These would be based loosely to the subject matters that work well at Helmdon but various sub committees could be added to these as necessary.

Fundraising and Social Committee.

This would be responsible for all “events” outside of present Parish-centred events such as Fetes or Coffee Mornings and all other fundraising that has been traditionally dedicated to raising funds for Church fabric.

This Committee would be lay-led and may well be broken down further into smaller sub committees by Event.

Finance Committee

This would be responsible for the Benefice and Committee budgets and the managements of funds allocated for the payment of Benefice Share and Benefice expenses.

This Committee would be chaired by the Benefice PCC Treasurer.

It is hoped that our present PCC Treasurers would be willing to add their experience to this Committee, along with others with an interest in, or experience of Finance.

Those responsible for the management of  “Fabric Committee” funds in each Parish would liaise with this Committee as would the Fundraising and Social Committee.

It is likely that a Stewardship sub Committee would also be formed.

Worship and Mission/Outreach Committees

These two areas could well be broken down further into sub committees for individual large services or seasons and mission events.

Again Rogation was given as the example here along with Helmdon PCC’s present Worship Committee which meets monthly to plan and organise all worship at St Mary Magdalene.

Pastoral Committee

This would have representatives of the various parish pastoral teams and individuals as well as the Benefice Safeguarding Officer(s).

It would set safeguarding policy, organising training and liaise with pastoral teams

Authority and Remits of the Committees

The remits and authorities of these Committees would be decided on a case by case basis by the members of the Benefice PCC.

Some powers would be delegated directly others would need the approval of the Benefice PCC before actions were taken.

The example used was Helmdon PCC’s Committee structure.

Here each Committee has been given an amount of PCC funds they are able to allocate and spend without needing to seek PCC approval first.

Also all social and fundraising events are the responsibility of the Social Committee, who liaise with the Worship Committee when their remits overlap.

As this is a new venture there will naturally be some flexibility here so that the remits of these Committees can be changed if necessary over time.

Parish “Fabric Committees “

Each church would retain the responsibility for and autonomy over its Church Building with the creation of a Parish-based “Fabric Committee”.  

The present revenue sources, such as fundraising events for the Church Fabric, restricted Fabric accounts and any gift aid or collections set aside at present by a Parish to pay for the maintenance of their Parish Church and the payment of utility bills and insurance premiums for that church would come under the supervision of these Fabric Committees.

Existing PCC bank Accounts would also be managed by these individual Parish “Fabric Committees” and remain separate to The Benefice PCC Bank Accounts.

Under this option No Parish would face a “bill” from the Benefice PCC for their contribution to the Benefice Share and Ministry and Mission.

Instead PCC accounts from previous years and budget planning would ensure the allocation of revenue sources was always fair and equitable in both directions.

Good lines of communication would need to be established between the Benefice PCC and these Parish-based “Fabric Committees” and flexibility and an understanding of the demands of both on both sides would be paramount here.


It is hoped members of these “Fabric Committees” could be sought from present PCC members, members of Friends Groups and those within Parish congregations and village communities who share a common interest in maintaining the Building for present and future generations.

The Constitution of Friends Groups may prevent a “merging” of resources but it is hoped these groups can work alongside each other much as they do with the present PCC structure.

As each Church in the Benefice has different schemes and funds in place for maintenance and repairs each church will no doubt seek to organise the governance of its “Fabric Committee” as works best for them.

Each of these Parish-based “Fabric Committees” would be chaired by a Churchwarden, who legally share joint responsibility for the fabric and movables in their Church.

The Parish “Fabric Committee” would also be responsible for the oversight of all present Parish based restricted funds, charities, bequests, property or land rental or funds derived from these. 

It would also seek to secure reasonable “Parish Reserves” where these are part of Current PCC Funds.

NB: Where Trustees are required from Churchwardens and the Incumbent, nothing would change, but where constitutions require PCC members, Parish representatives on the Benefice PCC or Fabric Committee Members could replace present “Parish” PCC members.

A New Benefice Bank Account with several signatories would be created for accountability. This account along with individual church accounts would be combined in separate “Lines” to create one centralised set of yearly “Benefice Accounts” which would be audited together.

Standing Orders and Committed Giving.

Those who give by standing order or have committed giving to their church would continue to pay into their parish account.

But they would be written to.

It would explained as in previous years their contributions will continue to go towards the ministry and mission costs of their church and they will be asked if they are happy for this to continue.

Some people might be happy to pay directly into the Benefice PCC Account which is called fittingly “The Astwell group of Parishes

(see Diocesan answer for further clarification)

Charitable Giving

We will continue our present practices in terms of the division of some collections and we will also attempt some Benefice wide Charitable giving as well.

Keeping things Local.

For the congregations who worship with us along with those in our communities who support us, nothing will change.

Each church will still be raising funds for itself from its collections and parish-based fundraising.

This will continue as always to be divided between “Fabric”- the needs of the actual Church Building and “Mission and Ministry” – the needs of the parishioners paid for by The Parish Share.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. ...

1 Cor 12:14-27

The only difference is these Mission and Ministry funds will now be gathered together at source, rather than at the Diocese and more importantly they can be supplemented by joint fundraising.

For we are God's fellow workers.

You are God's field, God's building.

1 Cor 3:9

As Churches we are actively demonstrating Christian principles and values:

The more financially stable churches will be helping out those who are struggling, the “bigger” amongst us will be helping the “smaller”, we will be working together as Christ Community to serve him in all our Parishes.

Therefore we ought to support people like these,

that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

3 John 1:8

We therefore commend this report to your prayers and God’s will

The Astwell Benefice Working party July 20th 2017           


Appendix I - Procedure and Voting:

We ask all PCC members and Officers to attend the joint meeting of Benefice PCCs on Monday 24th July at St Loys School Hall, Lois Weedon.

We ask all members to arrive at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.

At the start of the meeting, we will be addressed by the Archdeacon of Northampton the Ven. Richard Ormston. He will join with us in recommending this Proposal to you.

The format will be similar to January’s meeting. There will be time for discussion in mixed groups and for any questions arising from that to be answered by the Archdeacon, Rev’d Carole or any other member of the Working Party.

Any clarification or amendments can be made at this point.

We will then re-gather as individual PCCs to vote on the proposal.

A majority decision of each PCC will be taken.

The Rector and Reader will abstain from voting.

If you have already booked your holiday or are unwell on the day, then you may register your vote by email or in writing on the day.

Your letter or email must give your name and the PCC you are a member of.

You must state clearly if you are for or against the proposal. Also any amendment that might alter your vote.

A letter, in a sealed envelope, may be given to another PCC member to be delivered on the night or you may email both Reverend Carole and Archdeacon Richard on Monday morning.

Emails must be sent to both email addresses to be verified and counted.


What happens next….

If the vote across all the PCCs is to reject the recommendation then nothing will change.


If two or more PCCs have a majority vote for the proposal, then those Churches will join together to create a Joint Benefice PCC for the period of the Trial.

Those PCCs who vote to reject the proposal will not be part of any Joint Benefice PCC that may be formed by the other PCCs. They will remain with their own PCC governance for the period of the Trial or for as long as they wish to remain separate.

While this is a decision that must be taken by the elected representatives of the churches that is the PCC members, once the vote is over and if more than one PCC votes for the proposal then it will be important that all interested parties in those parishes are informed.

 After this meeting, if an agreement is reached by parishes to join together as one PCC, then we would ask the Churchwardens of these parishes to hold meetings at parish level with congregations, Friends groups etc. as soon as possible.

Appendix 2 - Forming the Joint Benefice PCC - timescales

It is hoped that any Joint Benefice PCC would be operational by January 2018 to allow for a “year beginning to year end” set of accounts to be created.

But to allow this to happen, individual PCCs would need to hold their own meetings during the autumn months.

At the first of which they would pass a resolution to this effect:-

This PCC wishes to explore closer co-operation by the trialling of a form of joint PCC arrangement for a period of three years starting in January 2018

This will be as per the terms of reference for both the Joint PCC and Parish “Fabric Committees” and this will include all the various exclusions and additions specific to that parish.

Each of our four PCCs would then meet over the next few months to oversee the formation of a parish “Fabric Committee” and the election of its members.

PCC Treasures working with PCC members would suggest budgets for both the Fabric Committees and Joint Benefice PCC and prepare them for submission to the Benefice PCC in January.

As elections for three years to the Joint Benefice PCC would take place in April at the APCM, PCCs would be asked to elect the parish representatives to serve initially on the Benefice PCC from January to April.

In January the Benefice PCC would meet for the first time and elect its officers and delegate powers to its committees.

This might take more than one meeting.

In February/March the Committees would begin to meet and take on their responsibilities

During this period the Parish Based Fabric Committees would meet for the first time setting up their terms of reference and electing their officers.

A process of communication and a regular review process of what is working and what isn’t would continue.

Appendix 3 - Terms of Reference for the Benefice PCC

The Church Representation Rules provide the formal mechanism for establishing any PCC including a  joint Benefice PCC in a multi parish benefice

So below encapsulates the Terms of Reference (for any PCC including a joint PCC)

The primary function of any PCC is to consult with the minister on matters of general concern and importance to the parish

Beyond that functions include:

The PCC co-operates with the minister in promoting in the parish the whole mission of the Church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical

The PCC considers and discusses matters concerning the Church of England or any other matters of religious or public interest

The PCC makes known and puts into effect any provisions made by Diocesan Synod or Deanery Synod; gives advice to those bodies on any matter referred by the Council; and raises such matters as the Council considers appropriate with those synods

The PCC has overall charge of all expenditure.

The Benefice PCC would allocate certain funds to the authority of the Fabric Committees of individual Churches, such as maintenance and repair, to included insurance, utilities PCC and parish charities, property rentals or oversight and restricted funds.

The Benefice PCC  would devolve responsible for the maintenance and repair of the church and churchyard, and for the movables in the church to the individual Parish “fabric Committees”

Appendix ii

Answers to questions put on behalf of PCC members to the Diocese:

Grants and Parishes and the legalities of this if this is simply a trial?

There is no change to the current parish structure in terms of gaining grants,

The churchwardens can apply as before probably seeking sanction from the joint PCC/Fabric Committee.

Most grants no longer do not take into account full share payment and all grant bodies are open to an explanation of the current situation.

Legalities of a 3-year trial and how we pay our share as a Benefice?

We set a share request at benefice level – its up to the parishes in each benefice to work out how they split this between them.

I would say that no parish has ever broken the law by not paying share!

Any PCC automatically takes on certain legal responsibilities- see terms of reference. Some legal responsibilities may be delegated to committees or other bodies if this is agreeable with their members.

Would we be penalised as individual churches if the over share isn’t met?

Where benefices get in to difficulty with share we seek early communication; assistance from the Area Dean, Archdeacon, Paul Adams as appropriate; we don’t “penalise” parishes despite what people might think! – we are all in it together seeking to secure the Kingdom and bring as many as possible to know Jesus.

Once agreed and set up can one parish then opt out during this trial period?

What will end the trial period early?

 By not going down the formal route of a CRR Scheme you preserve flexibility and if it is felt it is not working constituent parish arrangements can revert to the old standard; locally you will know if the trial is at an end….

If ended early or after the trial can the PCC's resume their traditional functions if not accepted by all PCC's?

By not going down the formal route of a CRR Scheme you preserve flexibility and if it is felt its not working constituent parish arrangements can revert to standard; locally you will know if the trial is at an end….

We need to work on some sort of wording for an agreement made by existing PCCs that all parishes will support Benefice events

It seems you are striving for the benefice to live cohesively – I would think something that says

“ in seeking to promote the mission of the church in the Astwell benefice all the constituent parishes will wish to be supportive of benefice events” might be worth exploring.

Rather than suggest penalties I would hope that after each event a review would be held of how successful it was; what lessons might be learned; and how it might be better next time.

How do we separate the PCC related charities from our Super PCC and keep em at parish level ?

you keep all restricted funds where they are

You keep all charities linked to a specific PCC within the remit of the individual churches “Fabric Committees” and note this both in the Joint PCC terms of reference and obviously report into the “fabric Committee”

Are there legal fees involved?


Do we do gift aid centrally or should be keep it at Parish level as his is how it is registered, but can we then use it centrally?

You need to establish what the donor’s wishes are – is the gift for use across the benefice or does the donor wish to make the gift to the specific place

What happens in 3 years.

good question! It might be that things are going so well that you just carry on…..

Our old PCC members will no longer have been elected, do we re-elect PCC to decide if we stay or does our super PCC decide this?

I think you expect to commit to having an APCM in three year’s time (held by the Joint PCC with input as at any APCM from those on the electoral role of the Joint parish i.e. all the present parishes)

The APCM agenda should include the question:  

Do we continue the trial; do we revert; do we seek a formal Scheme

If the primary function is working that will point to one answer

If it is not that will point to different answer



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