Sunday, 4 January 2015

Rectors and Vicars in Jersey

The Jersey Evening Post reported on recent sad story in the following terms:

“A MARRIED vicar has resigned as Rector of St Peter following an affair with one of his lay readers."

This shows, I think, a certain lack of local knowledge of the Channel Islands and the UK.

As one of my correspondents says:

“Traditionally a rector had the right to both the greater and lesser tithes on agricultural production in the parish to support his living and also held glebe land (land specifically given to the church to derive income), while vicars were only entitled to the lesser tithe: however, rectors all had the responsibility to maintain the fitting of their chancels (the bit of the church where the specifically "holy" items - the altar, the communion kit etc) out of their enhanced income. Most of this came to an end in England in 1836, bar a few exemptions which were finally abolished in 1977. The last English glebe lands were transferred into the hands of dioceses at the same time.”

But Jersey, of course is different:

“Tony Swindell [Rector of St Saviour] still has a notice on the field gate next to St Saviour's churchyard which proclaims this is glebe land)”

In Jersey matters are very different from the UK where Rector is more or less just a courtesy title. In Jersey, it denotes a very different function, with considerably different responsibilities. The Rectors may not sit in the States (since 1948), but the office is still very much entwined into the ancient Parish system as much as the Constable.

As Balleine notes (written before the 1948 Reform):

“The title of the incumbents of the twelve ancient parishes has varied at different times. In the 13th century it -was Recteur ; then it became Cure-Recteur ; then Cure. In five volumes of the Coutances Registers (l487-1555) island clergy are only three times called Rector, and in every other case Curatus, i.e. Cure. After the Reformation the universal title was Ministre, and this is the word listed in the Canons. In the 17th century the word Recteur began to reappear. The Rectors sat in the States ever since that Assembly existed.”

The Rectors in Jersey have specific Parish responsibilities, including sitting on the Parish Road’s Committee. In accordance with the Loi (1914) sur la Voirie it superintends the repair and maintenance of by-roads in the Parish, establishes boundary stones, issues Choses Publiques licenses, examines planning applications that fall within its responsibilities, supervises refuse collection, adjudicates fines during the Visite du Branchage, and proposes new road names, as may be necessary, for approval by the Parish Assembly.

And a Parish Assembly is properly called the “Assembly of the Principals and Officers of the Parish”. It is the decision-making body of each of the Twelve Parishes, comprising ratepayers (including mandataires) and electors of the parish.

When dealing with the ecclesiastical affairs of the Parish, the Rector presides, and it is commonly called an “Ecclesiastical Assembly”, at other times, the Constable presides. Even under the 2012 Canon Law, the Ecclesiastical Assembly, “means the assembly of the principals, officers and electors of an Ancient Parish over which the incumbent of the parish presides”. In other words, you do not need to be a member of the Church of England to attend and vote.

The same Canons also stipulate that “None, either Dean or Minister, shall hold two Rectorial Benefices together”

Traditionally, in Jersey, Vicar is the title given to the Minister in charge of a District and not a Parish Church. The churches of St Andrews, St Lukes, All Saints, St Matthews (The Glass Church) and Gouray all have had Vicars appointed.

There is some overlap, for example, the Rector of St Lawrence is also Vicar of St Matthews. The Rector of St Peter’s Church, however, does not have responsibility for a District Church, hence the Rector is just that, and the appellation of  Vicar is incorrect.

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