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Churches no longer need to hold services every Sunday | UK News

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Rural churches no longer need to hold a service every Sunday after a law dating back more than 400 years was overturned.

The law, from 1603, was written into modern canon law in the 1960s and obliged all parish churches to hold a Sunday service.

But at a time when rural priests may be looking after multiple parishes, following a decline in attendance, it was becoming impossible to maintain.

In 2011, 71% of parishes were part of a multi-parish set-up, according to the Church of England’s church growth research programme, published in 2016.

That compares with 17% in 1960.

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The change in the rules formalises what has already been happening

Now, the Church’s governing body, the General Synod, has voted to change the ancient rule on regular services.

In practice, however, it was already being ignored.

The Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, who chairs the Church of England’s simplification task force and first proposed the change to the law, said vicars could get around it by obtaining a “dispensation from the bishop”.

He added: “This is tidying up what does happen. This was just one (amendment) where we said, ‘out of date, doesn’t work, we’re operating differently in the countryside now, therefore let’s find a way of making it work’.”

He said churchgoers would not be affected because “this is already regularised and it’s already happening”.

“If you’ve got 20 churches, you’ve got a pattern of services on a Sunday where you say, ‘well we’ll have a communion over there on the first Sunday, and communion over there on the second Sunday’.

“This is just making that clear,” he added.

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