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We have a ‘Simplification’ Group?

A caption that reads 'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication' Leonardo da Vinci

The earth was trembling with anticipation a couple of days ago when the Church of England announced that the Church Representation Rules are to go online, free of charge, for the first time. Church Rep Rules, for the uninitiated, is a vital but dull publication that tells PCCs and Synods how they are to function.

As a side point, because it’s vital, it was also a good regular seller for Church House Publishing. Decisions like this one (giving good sellers away for free) were amongst the reasons why CHP always found it hard to make money – and why the decision to outsource their function was so poor. Anyone seen anything like Mission-shaped Church recently?

Anyway, I digress. What grabbed me in this momentous news was this paragraph:

Mary Chapman, chair of the Simplification Group, said: “The online publication of the Church Representation Rules is welcome early fruit from work in response to requests for easier access to important information.

Which immediately begs the question from me… we have a ‘Simplification’ Group? When did that happen?

Believe me, I welcome such a group. It has been extremely marked for me, moving from a curacy in a church that had a paid Administrator to parishes where I follow a Vicar who was here for thirty years and mostly ignored the bureacratization of the clergy. There is an incredible amount of paperwork that I’m currently having to deal with and without much in the way of administrative support.

Baptism forms, registers, setting dates and writing letters. With weddings, we have Banns forms, Common Licence paperwork, paperwork for dealing with divorcees, the registers, the County registrars forms, the fees. With funerals, you have the paperwork to confirm the body in the ground is the one you thought it was, paperwork for memorial headstones, regulations for what families can and can’t do, maps of churchyards to work out who is in which unmarked plot, details of the next of kin.

And that’s just the occasional offices – pastoral work. Throw in some faculties to handle a tree that needs to be pruned or the purchase of a candle stand in memory of a loved one, CRB confirmations for a new leader of Sunday School, PCC agendas and paperwork, and I can easily spend most of my week being a Chief Executive Officer rather than a Priest.

Maybe CEO is too much of a stretch. Office Manager may be a better title.

I’m only responsible for two parishes. I can’t imagine how much the paperwork increases exponentially if you’re in a rural multi-parish benefice of six, seven, eight churches. I shudder to think.

I’ve not heard of this Simplification Group before. The Press Release suggests it was set up in September last year. Anyone know their remit? Or how we provide a contribution to their thinking? I could think of a good few things they could simplify so that I do what I promised I would do when I was licensed – pray, preach, study, worship, visit, care and all that priestly kind of stuff.

Comments

Kerri Canepa
Reply

Best I could find was this link to the Diocesan Office Newsletter from the Diocese of Peterborough from November 2011.

http://tinyurl.com/7puxe2w

On the top of page 2 is “What could be simpler in Church administration?” which doesn’t say much but does give contact information (as well as the membership thereof).

Just your handy librarian taking care of your information needs!

David
Reply

Thanks Kerri and nice of you to drop by! I hope you’re well. This is what that link says

“As part of their commitment to going for growth, the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops have established a task group to assess credible options for reducing the time spent by parish clergy and church members on the management of structures and processes. To help focus the work, the group is keen to receive suggestions about areas that might benefit from simplification, together with practical ideas about how that might be achieved.
The group will then seek to produce an initial assessment, for the Council and the House, of credible options (including as necessary ones that might require legislation) within 12 months. The members of the group are: the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover; the Revd Canon Robert Cotton, Rector of Holy Trinity and St Mary’s, Guildford; Mr Andrew Britton, Chair of the Council’s Finance Committee; and Mrs Mary Chapman, formerly CEO of the Chartered Management Institute. Submissions can be made by email to: task.group@churchofengland.org or by post to Nicholas Hills, Church House, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3AZ, by 9 December 2011.”

What a shame I missed the deadline. I’m wondering how many responses they received as I can’t remember seeing anything about it.

Kerri Canepa
Reply

Hey, there’s no reason you shouldn’t submit suggestions if you have any. Hopefully this won’t be a one-off and this group will be around awhile. Certainly, you could preface any suggestions with a “sorry I missed the deadline but I just now heard about it.” That’s what I’d do but then I’m an American and we’re rather pushy that way 🙂

I’m doing well visiting family and trying not to melt in the Florida heat and humidity. Waiting to hear about my visa – add me to your prayer list, please!

David Brooke
Reply

Interesting that this ‘simplification group’ has resurfaced in this way. I remember seeing something about it at one point (in General Synod paperwork??) and then never seeing (or being able to find) anything more. There is ONE other reference to it that I can find in the 2013 Archbishops Council draft budget, but that is actually more about support for its work from the legal office. I’d have thought its work ought to be highly public for it to be really effective, wouldn’t you? Why would it be so invisible (some would say secret), and how many other such bodies are there? Meanwhile, my Archdeacon was about to start on a similar assessment of what makes our lives so complex…which inspired me to search again.

We’ve talked about this sort of thing with the CRR before, of course, David – yet more evidence of the chaotic thinking that followed the CHP/Publishing Board changes.

And of course having 7 parishes currently, combined with Area Dean duties, I entirely sympathise.

David
Reply

Hi David

Thanks for that. I do wonder too if CRR was the most obvious place to start. I mean, when was the last time you thought.. ‘gah, if only the CRR were online that would save me so much time.’ Probably never I’m guessing.

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