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Proposed New Burial Ground In Chipperfield

1st of September 2014

There is growing momentum towards the creation of a new burial ground in Chipperfield. A project group in the village has been working on this with the support of many others for several years and has been in contact with St Paul’s since the early days.

The posters for the Open Garden and Fun Day in August referring to an ‘extension to St Paul’s churchyard’ may have created the expectation that an additional burial ground has already been secured as part of the Churchyard. Whilst this is desirable much needs to happen before it can become a reality. I am concerned that this has raised expectations without the village being fully aware of St Paul’s circumstances in relation to a new burial ground and I feel it is time to clarify this.

The Church takes seriously its responsibility to provide spiritual care for the community, particularly at life-defining moments. I appreciate how important it is for families who have made their home in Chipperfield, some over many generations, to have their final resting place in the village in which they have invested much time, care and love. I know it matters to many families in Chipperfield that they are buried in consecrated ground. It may be important for you to know that the Diocese has confirmed it is possible for a new burial ground in Chipperfield to be consecrated, even if it is not part of the Churchyard. However, I and the Parochial Church Council (PCC), understand the desire of much of the village for this to be an extension to St Paul’s Churchyard.

St Paul’s has been anticipating the need for more burial space for some years. The creation of the new Memorial Garden, the commemorative wall in the old Memorial Garden, both funded by church members, and the detailed burial records held by the church have enabled us to bury a family member where a double-depth space already existed and enabled cremated remains to be interred in either existing family graves or in the new Memorial Garden. These were initiatives by the previous Rector, Jim Stevens, who recognised very early in his tenure that the Churchyard was filling up. He, with the PCC at that time, considered all options as to how to increase space for burials in the existing Churchyard and he held public meetings to alert the village to this approaching problem.

I applaud the work the Project Group has undertaken thus far to enable future generations to be buried in Chipperfield and St Paul’s Church will support this where it can. However, a major concern for the PCC is the financial and administrative burden on members of the congregation of maintaining its existing Churchyard, let alone an extended one. Nonetheless, the PCC of St Paul’s has indicated its support to incorporate the new burial ground into the Churchyard in its final completed state provided there is a sufficiently large endowment in place to maintain the new burial ground in perpetuity. This is a necessary condition as the PCC is unable to make a commitment that will burden future generations of church members. Your children’s children would not thank us for leaving them an underfunded, poorly managed, burial ground which they and future generations would have to rescue. St Paul’s has been a living church in and for this village for 175 years and our aim is to hand it on to future generations in a good and stable condition. The PCC can only do this with the help of the entire village and it can only responsibly consider such commitment for the future with the whole village behind it.

I am thankful that, from discussions with the new burial ground Project Group, there is recognition that St Paul’s on its own cannot make a commitment in perpetuity to manage and maintain such an extension to the Churchyard. The PCC is pleased to hear that the Project Group realises our funds barely extend to maintaining the present Churchyard and that consideration will be given to supporting this too.

A number of committed volunteers undertake many jobs in the building and churchyard (including rebuilding part of the flint wall) to contain maintenance costs, which are consequently lower than they could be.

Despite continued attempts to improve finances, and a few very generous regular donors, our income is dropping and in both 2012 and 2013 the church’s finances were in deficit. Our projections indicate this situation will continue. It is against this background that the PCC concluded that for the burial ground to become part of the churchyard, an appropriate endowment would first need to be in place to cover maintenance costs.

How many people know how our village church is funded?

Each church within the Church of England has to fund itself fully. We receive nothing from the Church of England nor from any government body although we are entitled to reclaim Gift Aid on donations made by UK tax payers. This means relying on donations from our congregation and members of the public in addition to the small amount of income generated from weddings, funerals and other committal services. (There is no fee for baptisms and any costs are born by the congregation). Almost 50% of donations and fees goes to the Church of England to pay for clergy salaries and pensions along with the wider work of the church. Each year St Paul’s also gives to charity a minimum of 10% of the money it receives to charity.

Chipperfield Parish Council gives the church a grant (recently £1500p.a. but not guaranteed) towards the c£5000 annual cost of maintaining the existing Churchyard. This illustrates one of the many expenses of running your village church. There is a very small group of Friends of the Churchyard who contribute about £500 p.a. Without some generous one-off gifts St Paul’s would be struggling to maintain itself. We, the church, are very grateful indeed to all who contribute in any way towards sustaining the life of St Paul’s in the village. If you have questions about this or would like to help maintain St Paul’s either practically or financially please contact me.

In addition to the financial arrangements for maintenance of the burial ground, there are other issues at Diocesan level to be resolved and I am currently in discussion with those concerned.  The Diocese is the body that decides what changes we can make to the church or churchyard. It is too early for us to know if anything might come to light which would prevent the burial ground becoming part of St Paul’s Churchyard.  
Therefore at this juncture the PCC cannot refer to the proposed burial ground as an ‘extension of St Paul’s Churchyard’.
However if the issues that arise during this process can be overcome, I would be happy to assist with arranging the eventual consecration of either a new burial ground or churchyard.
With my blessings
Rev’d Michele du Saire
Rector of the Benefice of Holy Cross, Sarratt, and St Paul’s Church, Chipperfield

 
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