Lenten tips for choristers

  • Erdinger Weissbier is an acceptable 0% alcohol beer.
  • On Ash Wednesday, always wipe off ash before removing one’s surplice.
  • Performance time of Allegri’s Miserere Mei, Deus is 12 to 13 minutes, and if sung during the ashing might be tailored to the size of the congregation, cut from end of v8 to the start of v17, i.e. only 4 top Cs in total if sop’s solo is shaky.
  • Remember during Friday practice, there’ll be a choir Mass at half-time rather than “graveyard ghosts”.
  • Wash your feet on Maundy Thursday, it might be you. Continue reading

Church music, Vatican II and the Council of Trent

Does a recent recording’s release mark a change in the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude to music?

On 7 October, il Bollettino reported that the Holy See Press Office held a press conference to present “Palestrina. Missa Papæ Marcelli – Motets”, the latest CD of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir.  Reading the presentation of  Archbishop George Gänswein, prefect of the Papal Household, we wondered whether the sentiments expressed can be regarded as more than a mere marketing  statement for the new Deustche Grammophon product? Do they represent a change in attitude to music in the Church post-Vatican II, reflecting views such as those of Damian Thompson who in the Catholic Herald asked Can a great composer revive a tone-deaf Church? Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 27th September

Faculties (& total ignorance), copyright, sharia, toe-curling church music – and that news story: a mixed week

Bishops in the House of Lords

House of Lords Business Papers for Thursday 17 September 2015 indicated that along with a the Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE and Shaista Sheehan, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Lord Bishop of Gloucester, will be introduced to the Upper House on Monday 26 October at 2.30 pm. Bishop Rachel’s details are here. The new Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, will take the place vacated by the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield, who retires next week after forty years of ministry.

Bishop Christine’s Confirmation of Election Service took place after Evensong at York Minster on 22 September; the Consecration Service will be held on 30 November at York Minster; and the Inauguration Service in the Diocese of Newcastle will be held at St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle on Saturday 12 December.

Further examples of clergy disregard for faculty jurisdiction

The cases reviewed in our September round-up of consistory court judgments and CFCE determinations all contained examples of clergy disregard for the faculty jurisdiction, to a greater or lesser degree, and all involved works under the provisions of an archdeacon’s licence. In Re St Peter & St Paul Bassingbourn [2015] Ely Const Ct, David Etherington Ch temporary changes under an archdeacon’s licence resulted in “Heath Robinson” arrangements for screen and projector, the latter “[sitting] on a dinner tray set on top of a temporary board placed on top of the pews”, and poor electrical installation for which “a hole cut in the Rood Screen with exposed cabling [was] but one example”.

A strong message was sent by Chancellor Mark Hill QC to the diocese in the judgment Re St Thomas Sutton-in-Craven [2015] West Yorkshire & The Dales Const Ct Mark Hill Ch, which concluded:

“This judgment is disproportionately lengthy for what is a relatively straightforward petition. It has thrown up several procedural matters, the exploration of which may not have been dispositive, but they have been addressed and explained as way marks in the legal landscape in which the consistory court of the newly-formed diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales must operate, in common with every other diocese in the Church of England.”

Complete disregard for the faculty jurisdiction resulted in a censure for the priest and PCC in Re St Bartholomew Kirby Muxloe [2015] Leicester Const Ct David Rees Dep Ch but as in the other cases, one wonders whether these situations would have arisen had there been the “rigorous enforcement … expected from archdeacons.”


Coincident with David handing over his PCC copyright responsibilities this week was the news from the US District Court in California in relation to the song frequently sung, impromptu, at the end of Mass and on all sorts of other ecclesiastical occasion, “Happy Birthday”: see Rupa Marya et al v Warner Chappell Music Inc, et al US Dist CV04460 (CD Cal) 2015. As Jack of Kent points out, Continue reading

Religion and law round up – 9th March

A fairly busy week: the Mormon temple in Preston, Welsh devolution, women in the C of E episcopate, selling “church treasures” – and more

Caste in Britain

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published two new research reports – Caste in Britain: Socio-legal Review and Caste in Britain: Experts’ Seminar and Stakeholders’ Workshop – as part of a project undertaken at the request of Government following the requirement in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 for the inclusion of a statutory prohibition on caste discrimination within the Equality Act 2010 .

Key findings include the following:

  • Caste is a form of identity that is used as a basis for social differentiation distinct from class, race or religion.
  • Discrimination against an individual because of caste, including perception of caste, in education, employment, housing, business or public services cannot be tolerated and should be included in the protections against discrimination and harassment provided in the Equality Act 2010.
  •  However, the State should not intervene in cultural or social usages which are a matter of private practice. Therefore, in regulating in this area particular regard should be given to individuals’ rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • The definition of caste should be neither too precise nor too broad.  A minimum definition of caste in terms of endogamy (marriage restricted within a specific group) inherited status and social stratification would be useful.
  • Businesses and public authorities will need clear and practical information about how the prohibition of caste discrimination will affect them. The Commission’s initial view is that the impact will be small, given that the straightforward message remains that employers and service providers must not make decisions on the basis of irrelevant considerations such as caste.

Mormon temples and “public religious worship”

On Monday the ECtHR handed down its judgment in Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v United Kingdom [2014] ECHR 227, in which the Church had challenged the decision that its temple in Preston did not qualify for exemption from non-domestic rates as a “place of public religious worship”  because access to the temple was restricted only to those members of the Church in sufficiently good standing to have a “temple recommend” from their bishop.

In short, the LDS lost: the ECtHR held that the matter was within the UK Government’s margin of appreciation and that there had been no violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 9, nor was it necessary to examine the  complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. You can read our analysis here.

Silk Commission on Devolution in Wales

The Commission on Devolution in Wales chaired by Paul Silk delivered its second and final Report on Monday. The issue of legislating for the Church in Wales was not mentioned [1] – though it might get swept up in a general transfer of powers should the Government accept the Commission’s principal recommendation. The Commission wishes to see a move from the present conferred powers model of devolution, under which the National Assembly has specific powers expressly granted to it by the UK Parliament, to a reserved powers model under which anything not specifically reserved to Westminster is devolved. All that is a long way in the future; but if it were to happen one cannot imagine Westminster wanting to reserve the power to legislate for the C in W.

Perhaps the oddest recommendation was that “There should be at least one judge on the United Kingdom Supreme Court with particular knowledge and understanding of the distinct requirements of Wales”. National pride apart, why exactly? By the time a case gets to the SC the facts have been crawled over endlessly and what is usually at stake is a very precise and complex set of arguments as to the law. Proprieties and sensitivities apart, is there any reason in principal why an English case could not perfectly properly be decided by Lord Kerr, Lord Reed and Lord Hodge or a Scots one by Lady Hale, Lord Sumption and Lord Toulson (apart from the obvious one that the SC does not normally sit in panels of three)? Pure idle speculation, obviously: but one cannot help wondering whether, at the SC’s level of operation, it would make any great difference to the outcome.

29 March 2014 and the CofE

This year, 29 March could be an important day for the Church of England. Following General Synod’s vote on 11 February in favour of women in the episcopate, the legislative process moves to the Diocesan Synods which will vote on the motion

“That this Synod approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and draft Amending Canon No 33.”

For the motion to be carried within a Diocese, the Houses of Clergy and Laity must each vote, by a simple majority, in favour. Within the Church as a whole, a simple majority of Dioceses is required to carry the motion.  The voting of each Diocese and the date on which these votes are taken is being followed by Peter Owen on Thinking Anglicans, and from these it appears that 29 March is the earliest on which a simple majority within the Dioceses could be achieved.  A deadline of 22 May has been set for these votes to take place and all nine Dioceses that have voted to date have approved the motion.  The Diocese of Europe has indicated that it is unable to meet this timetable.

29 March is also the earliest date upon which the same sex marriage of CofE clergy might take place, contrary to the position outlined in the House of Bishops’ Statement of Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage.  Secular legislation requires notice of any marriage on this day to be displayed on the public notice board of the appropriate register office on 13 March. However, on today’s Sunday programme on Radio 4, one priest who has announced his intention to marry indicated that this was planned for three months’ time, prior to which he would be having a meeting with his bishop.

Church and cathedral music

Our post on Friday commented on the problems facing many English cathedral choirs, whose costs represent a significant proportion of the overall operating costs of the cathedral. Nevertheless, there was a more upbeat message in the Prospero blog of the Economist,  Cathedral choirs – Sing and they will come, which commented on the growing popularity of Choral EvensongThe blog cites From Anecdote to Evidence, Findings from the Church Growth Research Programme 2011-2013, a recent report from the theological college Cranmer Hall, which found that attendance at services in British cathedrals rose by 35% between 2000 and 2012, resulting chiefly from an increase in worshippers at weekday services, i.e. Choral Evensong, a service which follows the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, although the musical settings are often more modern.

However, the popularity of the service does not have a direct impact on cathedral finances; and the Dean of Durham Cathedral, Michael Sadgrove, puts this into perspective in his comment “[t]o put it bluntly, Evensong across the country offers a free daily recital. It’s a wonderful cultural offering.”

It’s the ECtHR, stupid

Ms Jacqueline Minor, of the EC’s Representation to the UK, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that The Sun had inaccurately conflated the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights in a headline to an article on a decision by the ECtHR about whole-life sentences. She was particularly concerned that the inaccurate headline had been published only two weeks after the PCC had established another breach of the Code in a complaint by the European Commission on the same issue.

The PCC resolved the matter by facilitating a meeting between representatives of the EC and representatives of The Sun to discuss the error and broader concerns about the paper’s reporting of European human rights law and the EU. It was agreed that The Sun would devise and circulate a memo and graphic to staff, the terms of which were agreed with the complainant, explaining the differences between the two and emphasising that the inaccuracy should not be repeated.

Should’ve gone to Specsavers. Or maybe read our idiot’s guide part III.

And finally…

The Times reported (£) that

“[t]he right [sic] of hundreds of churches to sell their historic treasures to repair leaky roofs hangs on a landmark appeal over a 16th-century helmet. The Flemish helmet dating from 1500 had been in a village church in Hampshire but was sold at auction for £45,000 to a private buyer, to finance running costs and repairs.”

The proposed sale by the PCC of Wootton St Lawrence was deferred after the Church of England’s Church Buildings Council challenged it and it is currently the subject of an appeal to the Court of Arches. The complicating factor is that the helmet is no longer in the church: some 40 years ago it was removed from the tomb with which it was associated and taken to the Royal Armouries for safe-keeping.

But with great (well, a certain amount of) respect to The Times, Church of England congregations  do not have a “right … to sell their historic treasures”. They have a right to petition for a faculty to allow them to do so – which is a very different matter from a “right to sell”. Every faculty application is considered case by case: some are granted, some are rejected. That’s why there’s a system at all: on the one hand to prevent PCCs from treating as their own property the buildings and contents of which they are merely the temporary trustees and, on the other, to make sure that any central policy on disposals is operated in a way that is sensitive to local needs and conditions.


[1] The Church in Wales’s submission to the Silk Commission is available here.

Electronic vs pipe organ: Re: St Peter, Wolverhampton

In Re St. Nicholas Warwick [2010] Coventry Cons Ct (Stephen Eyre Ch), the Chancellor reviewed the authorities relating to the replacement of pipe organs, which address a wide range of situations in which such a decision might need to be made, and stated [at para.16]

“[i]t is well-established that the onus is on those seeking to obtain a faculty for removal of a pipe organ. Account is to be taken of the musical qualities and durability of pipe organs. Accordingly, in borderline cases the approach of the consistory court should be to require the retention of such an organ.”

At first sight, therefore, it might seem unusual that in Re St. Peter Wolverhampton [2013] Lichfield Cons Ct (Stephen Eyre Ch), Chancellor Eyre refused a petition for the replacement of a failing electronic organ (which needed to be replaced “sooner rather than later”) with a pipe organ, even though finding the funds for such an electronic organ (~£30,000) would be difficult and the pipe organ was available at no cost [1].  However, this must be viewed in context: although St Peter’s Collegiate Church “has an admirable tradition of fine church music performed to a standard comparable to that of many cathedrals” [2], it is also Grade 1 listed with a large Willis pipe organ which sounds into the nave, for which there is currently a £350,000 appeal.  The present chancel organ (an electronic Makin organ) is used for choral evensong on Wednesdays and Sundays.

The proposal to replace the Makin instrument with a pipe organ (“the Bevington organ”) was supported by the Parochial Church Council of the Central Wolverhampton parish and by the District Church Council of St. Peter’s, but was not recommended by the Diocesan Advisory Committee who said that it “could not be accommodated without destroying the aesthetics of the space and the integrity of the architectural scheme”.  Similar aesthetic reservations were expressed by English Heritage (EH), the Victorian Society, and the Local Planning Authority, the EH stating that the Bevington organ is “a large and bulky piece of furniture which will be out of scale and character both with the space and the other items of furnishing in the chancel” and the necessary removal of the section of pews would “diminish the historic integrity” of the seating in the chancel.

The Church Buildings Council expressed different concerns in its letter to the Registrar focussed which focussed on the contractual and insurance arrangements for the moving of the organ to Wolverhampton and its installation in the chancel. However, the Chancellor stated that these would not have been obstacles to granting a faculty.


Chancellor Eyre noted, [at para. 15] that as a matter of church law, since a pipe organ will normally be a fixture rather than a chattel, in a listed church the relevant criteria must be addressed, [in that case, the Bishopgate questions and now, Re Duffield: St Alkmund [2013] 2 WLR 854]. These are

a) Would the proposals, if implemented, result in harm to the significance of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest?

b) If not have the Petitioners shown a sufficiently good reason for change to overcome the ordinary presumption that in the absence of a good reason change should not be permitted?

c) If there would be harm to the significance of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest how serious would that harm be?

d) How clear and convincing is the justification for carrying out the proposals?

e) In the light of the strong presumption against proposals which will adversely affect the special character of a listed building will the benefit outweigh the harm?

With regard to e), he indicated that it was necessary to bear in mind: the more serious the harm the greater the level of benefit needed before proposals can be permitted; and serious harm to a church listed as Grade I or Grade II* should only be permitted in exceptional cases.  In reaching his conclusions, the Chancellor needed to balance a number of considerations, [paras. 20 to 28]: the musical suitability of the Bevington organ; financial consequences; the loss of seating capacity to accommodate the Bevington organ; impact on the mission and outreach of the church; the procedure and transparency adopted in pursuing the proposal; and aesthetic considerations.

A significant part of his conclusions was [para. 29]

“[t]he argument that a particular object is being provided free of charge cannot justify the introduction into any church of an object which is not otherwise suitable let alone the introduction of such an object into a Grade 1 listed church.

Here the impact of introducing the Bevington organ would be grave. The problem lies in its size. There would be unlikely to be any ground for refusing a petition to introduce a small pipe organ occupying the location of the current Makin instrument even if that replacement were to be noticeably larger than Makin organ.”

In refusing the Petition, he continued

“The current proposal goes very much beyond that. It is a proposal to introduce an object which will occupy a substantial space and which will materially detract from the appearance (indeed from the beauty) of the chancel. It will have a significant adverse impact on the chancel’s special character.  . . . . . . the benefits to be achieved, real and important though they are, do not justify that step.”


The Chancellor commented [para. 22] that Re St. Peter Wolverhampton “is not one of those exceptional cases where it would be appropriate for the Court to take account of the decision as to financial priorities”, although he suggested

“given the quality of the music at St. Peter’s and the important part which music plays in the church’s life, worship, and mission  . . . . . .expenditure on the acquisition and maintenance of a suitable instrument for use in the chancel would clearly be an appropriate use of the funds of the church.”

Whilst finding the funds for such an organ will be difficult, he was not convinced that the task would be impossible, [para. 29], presumably taking into consideration the estimated £30,000 required in comparison to the on-going £350,000 appeal for the refurbishment of the Willis organ.

Two aspects not apparent from the judgement are: the number of people in the congregation attending the Evensong services at which the organ would be played; and the need for an organ in the chancel.  The latter is implicit in the statement the “large Willis organ sounds into the nave” suggests that a smaller instrument, pipe or electronic, located in the chancel would provide more practical and appropriate for the music performed there.  There may be other issues of visual contact between the assistant organist, director of music, and the choristers depending upon the location of the organ console, and one is reminded of the “mechanical hand”, operated by the organist and protruding from the organ loft in Ripon Cathedral in an early attempt to solve such problems.

[1] The organ had been offered to St. Peter’s free of charge and the costs of moving and installing it together with any necessary modifications would be met by special donations or by volunteers performing the necessary work. The effect would be that St. Peter’s would have a functioning pipe organ in the chancel without cost.

[2] With seventy-five children within its choirs, nine choral scholars, one organ scholar and a number of organ students