The Parochial Church Council of All Saints’, Stock Harvard met on Monday 29 November 2021 at 7:30pm in Church, in order to discuss and vote on whether we should seek Additional Episcopal oversight (AEO) for the future ministry within our Church. This meeting was chaired by the Area Dean Canon Tim Ball with the Archdeacon (the Venerable Elizabeth Snowden) in attendance.

As was explained in a previous news brief, the necessity for such a vote to be taken has arisen since the resignation of our Rector/Incumbent and the anticipated reorganisation of clergy within the Diocese at the end of this year. Our church has been accustomed to the ministry of male priests and some have expressed concerns about any future appointment. 

After an open church meeting where the view of the traditionalists who hold to the ministry of male priest only and the position of the church of England on the ministry of men and women were outlined. The PCC decided to consult those on the electoral roll. Accordingly, those 115 on the Electoral Roll were invited to write in to or email the PCC Secretary and lodge their views on the subject. 49 replies were received – of which 7 requested that the PCC seek AEO The PCC were reminded of their obligation to represent the congregation and ER members in their vote. Accordingly, the process continued.

Out of 16 members of the PCC, 15 were present. A secret paper vote was taken with the following outcome:

  • Those in favour of seeking Additional Episcopal Oversight 3
  • Those not in favour of seeking Additional Episcopal Oversight 11
  • There was one paper not completed and returned blank

Therefore, the situation is that All Saints’ will accept female priests (as is the case with the majority of churches within the mainstream of the Church of England). Father Barry Hall (Honorary Priest) has kindly agreed to take all Masses up till the end of this Calendar year and, from then onwards, will be celebrating on Wednesday mornings from the side altar (Lady Chapel). He will not be taking any other duties (Weddings, Baptisms & Funerals). 

We are grateful that, during the Interregnum, our Licenced Associate Priest the Reverend Miranda Seaman has kindly agreed to officiate at Weddings, Baptisms and Funerals (when she is available) and, with effect from 1st January 2022, she will do her best to cover as many of the Sunday Masses as she can from the main altar. Our Churchwardens will be seeking cover in her absence, and should no Priest be available, we may have to have a service of just hymns and readings led by the Churchwardens.

Our PCC’s representatives will soon be meeting with the Archdeacon at a Vacancy Meeting and at this time a new profile for our vacancy will be compiled and submitted together with other churches in our Compass Group. It is anticipated and hoped that a suitable candidate will be appointed who will fulfil the needs of several (probably 5) churches within our area and attend churches on a rota system. They may not necessarily be based in the Stock Rectory.

We do thank you for your understanding, support and patience during this extremely difficult time for us all and we do hope that you will continue to come and worship God in our very special and Holy place.

The PCC also considered Nigel Mason’s seven points (which he made at the open church meeting on Sunday 7th November 2021).  Canon Tim Ball clarified that the use of Reserve Sacrament (consecrated by a male priest at one service and administered at another) was not a recognised or authorised practice in the Church of England. He also was clear that guest priests on a Sunday would be invited during the Interregnum by the Churchwardens and afterwards by the new incumbent. However, there was a possibility that there might be some regular commitment to publish an advance list of who is taking Sunday services.

It is also important to reiterate that the decision about Additional Episcopal Oversight has nothing to do with the type of service at All Saints’. A new incumbent would be sought who would conduct services at All Saints’ in the tradition and style the PCC wish them to be conducted.