The Church of England’s system of Parochial Church Councils (PCCs) is not yet a hundred years old. I’ve been enjoying looking again at the records of the first Great Coates meetings in 1920 and 1921 in a Minute book which the church still has.
A meeting was held in the village Reading Room on 14th April 1920 to choose the first PCC. The Rector carefully explained how each parish would have its own PCC and would send representatives to wider meetings (including what was then wonderfully termed a ‘Ruridiaconal Conference’) from which a national Church Assembly would be elected, enabled for the first time to frame new Church of England laws. The system survives today with what are now called Deanery Synods, Diocesan Synods and the General Synod.
My favourite bit of the Minute is undoubtedly “A vote of thanks was accorded to the Chairman, Rev Canon Quirk by the Revd Frank Quirk for the clear & lucid way in which he had explained the whole matters (loud applause)”, all the better for noticing that the Revd Frank Quirk was Canon Quirk's son and Curate. I must endeavour to revive the practice of minuting applause at the Rector's lucidity.
A decision was made that there should be equal numbers of men and women on the PCC. I’m not sure whether this is out of recognition of women’s rights or out of a fear that the men might be outnumbered. It wasn’t anticipated that it would usually meet more often than once a year.
The first meeting was then held nearly a year later on 4th March 1921 – just a month after Church Assembly finally approved the new PCC system. There was tentative discussion about what the new PCC might do. It was felt “the council perhaps may have the power to raise funds” but it was recognised that the ornaments of the church would remain the responsibility of the Churchwardens “without interference from the Council”. It would have “a strong voice in the allocation of the offertories” although later “the chairman pointed out that the Organist’s salary and Parochial Apportionment [payments to the diocese] swallowed up a large portion of the Offertory”. It would have “authority to dismiss the Clerk or Sexton, but had no control over the Organist”. I nearly chose 'no control over the organist' as the title for this post.
And then the first actual item of business (a proposal for the installation of a hymn book cupboard) and straight away the first occurrence of the depressing Minute “this caused a lively discussion but nothing definite was decided”. The repair of choir robes, the need for a new carpet and the annual garden party were the other items raised. People did get on and deal with each of these items, although it seems Mrs Quirk was the prime mover.
The second AGM came round on 1st April 1921 with ten people present rather than the twenty seven who had been present at the first AGM. Here there was “a suggestion that the Church Belfry be lighted by gas as paraffin was no good”.
The PCC then met on 10th November 1921 when “gas in the belfry is much appreciated”. There were two letters from Lincoln to consider, both with intriguing features.
First, the Diocesan Board of Finance had written to appeal for higher levels of payment from parishes. It noted that “a great many of our clergymen were in dire want and it was a very sad state of affairs”. The PCC thought that a system of collecting envelopes might help increase giving. I re-read this with a dull sense of inevitability given that a Churchwarden and I went to a meeting with a member of the present Diocesan Board of Finance last week at which he went over the new Parish Share system and suggested our parish pay significantly more than it does at present and that 'support' could be given as to methods of raising this higher sum.
Secondly, there was an interaction (or, interestingly, an apparent careful avoidance of interaction) with the national scandal of the deposition of the local Archdeacon on his conviction on a charge of adultery. “Another letter from Lincoln was read asking for monetary assistance to be given to help the Bishop pay off the outstanding debt of £1000 in connection with the Wakeford case. It was not thought advisable to give any assistance in this matter as there are so many calls upon ones purse at the present time.”
Meanwhile, the picture shows the present temporary use of the disused oil pipe hole near the church's south door.