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Headline Four hands on at all confirmations

Author Bill Bowder

Date 14 December 2001

Abstract "IT IS very much the way forward, and it is fun," says the the Revd Peter Cornish, rector of a benefice that has been a local ecumenical project (now a partnership: LEP) with the Methodists for 30 years.

Story "IT IS very much the way forward, and it is fun," says the the Revd Peter Cornish, rector of a benefice that has been a local ecumenical project (now a partnership: LEP) with the Methodists for 30 years.

Methodists and Anglicans in Sturry, near Canterbury, ditched their separate structures to opt for a single church council and a common purse. Their two clergy are now interchangeable in the parish and the Methodist circuit.

The Revd Peter Cornish is the Rector of Sturry with Fordwich, and Westbere with Hersden. His Methodist colleague since September, the Revd Jeff Ward, was formerly a circuit superintendent in Yorkshire.

"We are interchangeable in everything, except some of the legal preliminaries for weddings, though who actually takes the wedding depends on which of us is available on the day," Mr Cornish says.

"We see ourselves as primarily Christian rather than denominational. I would find it enormously frustrating to go back to a single denominational parish."

The LEP's quota, set by Canterbury diocese, goes three-quarters to the diocese and one quarter to the Methodist circuit. Confirmation is administered jointly by the Bishop of Dover and a Methodist minister.

"Four hands are laid upon the head of each candidate, and they are then full members of both denominations, and can choose which Church they want to be members of, if they move away from the area, as they are in good standing with both Churches."

Mr Cornish counts as a circuit minister, and can lead worship and preach throughout the circuit. The two clerics celebrate according to both Methodist and Anglican rites. They share responsibility for the development of the parish and its leadership team.

In parishes in West Wicklow, in Ireland, a Methodist minister and former Christian Aid manager, the Revd Michael Begg, has been working in an authorised experimental grouping with Anglicans in the diocese of Dublin & Glendalough since June 2000.

"During vacations and in emergencies, I am on call for Sunday worship and pastoral duties. The Church of Ireland congregations expect, as a matter of course, that I will be involved at Christmas, Lent and Easter. The only negative comment seems to be related to my sermons, which exceed eight minutes," Mr Begg says.