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Their joint campaign is to retain, use and value historic rectories and the Book of Common Prayer

By Tim Stanley

Save Our Parsonages (SOP), established in 1995 to encourage the Church of England to retain, use, value and maintain its rectories and vicarages, has added the Book of Common Prayer to the historic assets it is keen to protect.

SOP has joined the Prayer Book Society (PBS) which encourages rediscovery and use of the majesty and spiritual depth of the Prayer Book at the heart of the Church of England’s worship.

‘In our role as a corporate member of the society we are well-placed to work with it on a problem we share,’ explains SOP’s director Richard Jackson. ‘Namely the determination of some church leaders to be seen as trendy and relevant among their peers while only succeeding in making the church “un-trendy” and irrelevant to the laity.’ 

While supporting the cause of the church’s authorised liturgy and the doctrine it contains, Mr Jackson hopes that SOP’s membership of the PBS will help to draw attention to the campaigns of both organisations keen to safeguard church traditions.

Currently activities undertaken by SOP – whose members are a mix of parishes and private individuals – include casework with parishes where the parsonage is under threat as well as publication of an annual magazine. In addition, SOP’s organisation of conferences and day trips is geared to raise awareness of the country’s parsonages.

Mr Jackson points out that, just as there are strong reasons to encourage the continued use of the Book of Common Prayer as the Church of England’s official standard of teaching, there are also three good reasons for the retention of traditional parsonages in rural areas.

He explains: ‘A spacious house, with great symbolic importance and practical space for parish activities, helps to keep the church at the centre of our culture and is an effective tool for advancing the Christian message.

‘Secondly, a traditional parsonage gives focus to the life of the community, both on symbolic and practical levels, with its church and community meetings, garden parties and other activities.’ 

Mr Jackson’s third reason is the ‘heritage argument.’ He explains: ‘Traditional rectories and vicarages are as much a part of church heritage as the churches themselves. If a church-owned heritage building is sold to a private owner whose life is not focused on the community, its raison d’etre is lost.’