TALK DELIVERED AT THE DIOCESAN PCC/WARDENS SEMINAR OF THE DIOCESE OF AWORI HELD AT ST. PAUL, ATAN ON SATURDAY, 9TH MARCH, 2013
TOPIC: QUALIFICATIONS FOR SERVICE
It is an understatement to say that some Church Councils have lost their constitutional rights and position. This may be due to (i) their ignorance of the constitution (ii) their care free/ nonchalant attitude (iii) the fear of being voted out in the subsequent vestry meeting (iv) the intimidating roles of the so called God fathers who are known to be powerful and are being addressed as power brokers. It is in the light of this that many have jettisoned their constitutional roles and dance to their dictates. This has made the Church to be haphazardly administered and things need to be corrected. The Parish Counsellors should rise up to the challenges and live up to the expectation. This can only be done if one is properly armed with constitutional power. It is in the light of this that I have been moved to share with us some of our constitutional roles so that the Church of God may be properly administered and adequate measures will be taken to curb the excesses of the so called Godfathers in our Churches.
Before we delve into the constitutional roles of the Parish Council, it is of great necessity to familiarize ourselves on the definition of the terms: the Parish Church Council and Parish Church.
What is Parish Council?
The Parish Church Council is a body of the Church congregation elected by the Congress of the Church at its annual vestry meeting, held in February of every year, to see to the running of the Church. Only the Communicants who are also the subscribing members of Eighteen years of age and upwards and who have not placed themselves in such a position as might make them liable to be suspended from a Communion are qualified to be elected as members of the Parish Council. The tenure of every administration is always for a year before another Congress meeting is held. They hold meetings every month to discuss issues affecting the Church.
The Parish Church Council (PCC) is the major decision taking and policy making body of the Parish. The Parish Priest presides over the meeting of the PCC on matters bordering on Church Fund, land, building etc. There is a post of an elected Secretary who is equally called the Church Secretary.
It is the duty of the Parish Church Council to consult together on matters of general concern and importance to the Parish. They are to cooperate with the ministers in charge of the congregation to promote the whole mission of the church be it pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical. It is their responsibility to consider and discuss matters affecting the Archdeaconry, Diocese and Church of Nigeria at large on matters of religion or public interest. They are also responsible to make known and put into effect any provision made by the Diocesan Synod and advice accordingly on any matter referred to it by the Synod.
The Parish Council is responsible to the Church congregation, as the council must give account of its activities during the year at the annual meeting of subscribing members of the Parish in the month of February. This shows that the council members are holding office in trust for the congregation and above all for Jesus Christ who is the head of the Church.
The Counselors therefore must be diligent, responsible, honest, reliable and trustworthy in order to gain the confidence of the subscribing members. If any Parish Counselor performs well he or she may be re-elected for two, three or more years.
Membership of the Parish Council does not attract salaries or remuneration. God certainly rewards those who diligently serve Him. The Parish Counselors are under the obligation to dispose all they have to God in God’s services. They must give their lives, time, love, money, gold, silver and everything they have to God. (Haggai 2:8)
The Parish Counselors are leaders in the Church; indeed they are leaders by right. It is of course a servant leadership. Each Counselor is expected to pattern his /her leadership to that of Jesus Christ. The aim and purpose of the Parish Counselor is to serve. To put the needs of the congregation above his or her personal problems. In order words the Parish Counselor must be a sacrificial leader. The Counselors must be example to believers, in word, in conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith and in purity of life. He /She must be a cheerful and generous giver when it comes to contributing towards the expansion of God’s work.
With the above, there is need for the whole council to remain focused and shun all forms of ulterior and selfish motives but work harmoniously to build the Church of God. Any decision taking at the Council is a collective decision and is binding on every member whether you are there or not.
MEMBERSHIP: Membership of the Parish Council shall include the following:
- The Vicar who is the Chairman
- The Assisting Priests in that parish
iii. The Wardens – the Vicar’s and the People’s Wardens
- Officers of the Church of Nigeria who reside in the parish
- Officers of the Diocese who reside in the parish
- Bishop’s Nominees who reside in the parish
vii. Elected members at the annual Vestry meeting excluding the Auditors – 10 members
viii. Synod delegates from the Parish Church Representatives at the Archdeaconry
What does Parish mean?
The religious activities of most Anglican Churches center in an established Parish Church, a unit of Church life that has been familiar since the early middle Ages. For many centuries the word ‘Parish’ meant a geographical area with definite bounds. Parish is from the Greek word “paroikia” meaning sojourning, or temporary residence. It was also used for a Graeco-Roman administrative term referring to a section or quarter of a city, generally outside the walls, where resident foreigners would live. It also refers to a geographic unit served by a pastor or priest. It is a subdivision of a Diocese.
In the early church, the Parish was the entire body of Christians in a city under the Bishop, who stood in the same relationship to the Christians of the entire city as does the Parish priest to the parish in modern times. In the 4th century, when Christianity in Western Europe spread to the countryside, Christians in an important village were organized into a unit, with their own priest under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of the nearest city. The unit was called a parish. This, to a Christian, suggests that the place of their ‘sojourning’ is this world (1 Peter 1:17), while their true home was in the city of God.
In Anglo-Saxon England the first parish churches were founded in important administrative centers. They were called ministers, and subsequently old ministers, to distinguish them from the later village churches. When the Church of England became independent of Rome during the 16th century, it retained the parish as the basic unit of the church.
The Parish system in Europe was essentially created between the 8th and 12th centuries. The Council of Trent (1545–63) reorganized and reformed the parish system of the Roman Catholic Church to make it more responsive to the needs of the people.
In civil government, the parish is the lowest unit of government in England. It is organized as a legal corporation. It is legally as well as canonically in union with the diocese where it is located. The body thus constituted holds and maintains the buildings, properties and endowments. A parish is usually under a Parish Priest who designates as the Vicar, with his official residence known as the Vicarage or Parsonage. Some strong stations or groups of stations can be converted or prompted to a Parish Status, while some are under another Parish or Districts. Also some are tagged autonomous Parish. Those Parishes under another Parish or District are supervised by the District Superintendent.
The Parish comprises of all people who reside in the division. These people have right to spiritual care of the Parish. In the Anglican tradition all people in a Parish are parishioners of the Vicar or Rector. All the people are supposed to contribute to the physical development of the Church. The Church is the united force for the people in the Parish. The Church is the center whereby the social, political and religious life of the community takes their roots. The Church is therefore the unifying factor for all people in the Parish. The Church has the responsibility to promote the gospel and preach in order to win souls to God’s kingdom.
QUALIFICATIONS FOR PARISH STATUS
Although this varies from Diocese to Diocese due to evangelical crusades being embarked upon by our Church in the recent time, that notwithstanding, there is need to look at this so as to know what qualifies us before we can be addressed as a Parish.
- The Church must have been enjoying the services of a resident Priest for three consecutive years.
- There must be at least fifty (50) communicants in the congregation.
- There must be a suitable vicarage and a belfry
- The Church must have been registered for marriage
- The Church must be seen to be a Missionary Church (founding another Church)
GENERAL POSITION OF THE PARISH AND THE PARISH CHURCH COUNCIL IN THE CONSTITUTION
All the Diocesan Constitutions in the Church of Nigeria are the same with a minor or little variation. This is mainly to show the uniqueness and uniformity of our Church System. It will be of great importance for every Parish Counsellor to have a copy of the Diocesan Constitution and study it carefully. If there is any area in the constitution you don’t understand you can employ the services of the legal officers in the Diocese for clarity. This will enhance one to be up to date and be properly guided by the established laid down rules and principles guiding our Church.
Below are some of the extracts from the Constitution of the Diocese of Egba (amended 1994) to clearly state what qualifies our stay at the Council.
- (a) The Parish Church shall meet at least once a month, one third of the members shall form a quorum
(b) The Vicar, or a person nominated by him, shall take the chair at each meeting of the Parish Council, failing which the Council shall elect a temporary Chairman.
(c) At its first meeting after the annual Vestry Meeting, the Parish Council shall elect a Secretary and shall ascertain what money and property are due to pass into their charge.
- The Parish Council shall be the guardian of all Church buildings, land and other properties within the Parish. They shall effect the necessary repairs, insurance and other payments and no trees or such landmarks shall be cut down but by their authority. No Church, Chapel, Vicarage or Agent’s House shall be erected, demolished or altered externally or internally until approval has been obtained as required under the Constitution.
- (a) The Parish Council shall fix, from time to time the minimum of annual payment which shall entitle a member of the Church to be enrolled as a subscribing member, and the amount so fixed shall bear the name of “Church Dues”.
(b) All monies contributed as Church Dues shall be paid over from time to time by the Churchwardens to the Treasurer of the District Church Council to be credited to the Assessment Fund of the District.
(c) Subject to the foregoing sub-paragraph, the Parish Council shall have the control of all rents of lands and buildings, of all collections in the Church and other local Church money, and shall apply them to the expenses of Divine Services, Salaries, repairs and such other ecclesiastical and charitable purposes as they may think fair, provided that the purpose of the Communion Offertories shall be determined by the Vicar with the Church Wardens, and the money should be accounted for by the wardens accordingly.
- (a) The Church Wardens shall act as Joint Treasurers of the Parish Council provided that if neither of them wishes to undertake the keeping of the accounts, the Council may appoint an Accountant who, if not already a member, shall attend meetings as an official “in attendance”.
(b) The Church Wardens shall receive all dues, make all payments and superintend all works sanctioned by the Parish Council. They shall have charge of the Church furniture, provide all things necessary for Divine Services, assist in collecting the offerings and maintain order in the Congregation. They shall also assign the sittings as determined by the Parish Council. They shall enter in the Preacher’s Book details of attendance and the amount collected at each Divine Service.
(c) The Church Wardens shall present a report of income and expenditure for the preceding month at each meeting at the Council, and shall make up and present to the Council, at their last meeting, the account of the receipts and expenditure to the 31st December in every year.
(d) An abstract of the account, after being audited, shall be sent to the Secretary of the District Church Council in the month of February and, after being submitted to the Council, shall be transmitted by him to the Secretary of the Diocesan Board; a copy shall also be laid before the annual meeting of subscribing members of the Parish held in the month of February.
(e) The Church Wardens shall take inventory of the properties; furniture, investments, etc of the Church; and of the Vicarage on every change of Vicar and Wardens, on the appointment of a successor there shall be another inventory of the Church and of the vicarage.
Note: No person shall be eligible to be a Church Warden or a member of the Parish Council or to hold any office in the Church or body unless he or she is a communicant and subscribing member of his Church and he/ she must have attained the age of eighteen years (18years).
At a glance, below are some of the substantive roles of the Parish Counsellors:
- To be present always at the monthly meeting or at any other meeting scheduled for the progress of the Church. They shall formulate policies that will enhance the smooth running of the Church.
- To contribute positively on matters affecting the Church; they should as well give constructive criticism that will lift up God’s work.
- To give unflinching support to any programme that will promote God’s work and the worship of Christ’s name.
- To look after and keep such record of the Church building, land and other properties that belong to the Parish.
- To see to the purchase and repair of any Church furniture or fittings.
- To determine and decide on the Church dues expected of every member and to lay good example in the payment of such dues.
- To check the financial state of the Church monthly; the income and expenditure prepared by the Church Wardens.
- To always use their position in advancing God’s kingdom and proffer solution where the Church is lagging behind, be it financial or otherwise.
- To lay good example among the congregation through their regular attendance at Worship especially at the Holy Eucharist; through their financial contributions to God’s work and through their behavioural attitude which is Christ like.
- To exhibit love, cordiality among the Church congregation and give adequate support to the priest who is the Chairman of the Council on any Church developmental projects brought before the Council. To assist the priest by giving him good and laudable counsel that will enhance his vision and dreams; thereby propelling the spiritual and physical growth of the Church.
With all the constitutional empowerment as stated above, there are some other things that need to be taken into cognizance, so that the Church of God will be properly managed and administered. These are stated below:
WHAT SHOULD BE PARAMOUNT IN THE THOUGHT OF THE PARISH COUNCIL OF EACH CHURCH ARE:
- The Church is the body of Christ and that Christ is the head of his Church, putting his ministers in charge. We should be committed to the Lordship and leadership of Christ. When we commit ourselves, lives and administration to Him, we receive right direction.
- That the council members should see themselves as partners in progress. They should work together in unity. No individual or personal agenda should be pursued but everything must be pursued generally in the interest of the Church.
- That there is accountability required of us for every of our steps. This is not to the mortal – at the next vestry meeting but to the immortal, the invisible, the omnipresent and omniscient God.
- That every critical assessment of any issue should be done constructively not destructively.
- The council should employ distributive method of administration. Different assignment should be allotted to different committees which will comprise members of the parish council and members of the congregation. This will make majority of the people to be in the know of what is going on in the church as well as making them to be responsible and live up to expectations. This will even help in discovering talents in members. This will eventually reduce/minimize unnecessary side talk in the congregation.
- Every parish council must know that they are responsible to the Diocesan Bishop and that he has the power even to veto any of their decisions. They should work hand-in-hand with the Diocesan so as to move the diocese forward. There should be avoidance of unnecessary sentiment against the diocese. Parishes are babies of the Diocese and babies must take care of the parents (Eph. 6: 1- 3)
- They should not hesitate to be obedient to the word of God (Acts 5:29). The word of God should be the lamp as well as the light for us (Ps. 119:105). When at the crossroad the parish council members should be bold to consult God, who owns the church; they should not hesitate likewise to consult the word of God and the Holy Spirit to know the way forward. God’s work should be done in God’s way. Always live a life of obedience and receive proper guidance from His word. You are leaders called by God and who cannot live without taking proper and adequate direction from Him.
- Should be conscious of the fact that they are the light which cannot be hidden and they should behave likewise (Matt. 5: 14, 16). A light is always meant for the use of those who are in darkness, that by it they may see. The sun lights up the darkness of this world. A lamp is hung in a room to give it light. The church of Christ is the light of men. The god of this world hath blinded their eyes. Christ’s disciples are to shine into their darkness and give them light. We are expected to live exemplary lives and let our light conquer every bit of darkness in our congregation.
- To always strive to do things in God’s way. When you do things in His ways, He coordinates every of the activities and make necessary provision, so as to prove His worth. He knows what button to press, who to mobilize to do what. Since it is God’s business, He will always take care of it.
My Lord, I want to thank you very sincerely for this wonderful and rare opportunity given me to be part of this year’s Diocesan PCC/Wardens’ Seminar. I cannot thank you enough, but my sincere prayer to your Lordship and Mama Awori is that the Lord Almighty will prosper and enlarge your ministries and that no evil will locate you as you continue leading the flocks of God in this Diocese in Jesus name. Amen. I also want to thank, very passionately, my fellow brother clergy and leaders from our various Churches who are here today for giving me audience, may the Lord bless you all. Thank you and God bless you mightily.