Vicar's Blog ~ March 2019
It is the time of year again, but this time in a year that only comes around every six years, when we revise and reconstitute the Electoral Roll of the Parish. From what follows, dug up by Joy Heywood from the Parish Archives, you’ll see that this is the centenary of our Electoral Roll, which was introduced here and in many other places after the Great War ended. This is a nice thing to note for sure, but it is worth observing some aspects which do not immediately jump out at us. For example, in January 1919 it was written (presumably in December 1918 and published the following month in January), that “we hope that it will consist of men and women”. Remember that it was only the previous month, November 1918, when the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 was passed, allowing women to be elected into parliament. In the preceding February the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed, enfranchising all men over 21 years of age and women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications (which meant that about 8.4 million women gained the vote). Finally, the Representation of the People Act of 1928 extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21, granting women the vote on the same terms that men had gained ten years earlier. It appears our fledging PCC were enlightened folk:
The PCC and the Electoral Roll
Notes from the Parish Magazine, 1919 -1920
“The forming of a Church Council is a suggestion of one of the members of the congregation, and it is one which deserves sympathetic consideration. In many parishes such a Council has been the means of stimulating interest and of strengthening Church life. If such a council is formed, we hope that it will consist of men and women.”
A “thoroughly representative meeting of members of the congregation”… discussed “the War memorial, the formation of a Church council, and the length of services”.
This suggestion seems to have been superseded in July 1919 with the establishment of a Parochial Church Council proposed by the Committee of Diocesan Re-organisation. This all seems to be part of the strong desire after the Great War for a fairer and more democratic society. Nevertheless it is amusing to notice that in spite of the radical change in voting franchise, the fledging Council PCC discussed three such diverse things: what was to become our significant war memorial (which had been first proposed in 1917 before the War ended), the introduction of democracy into the life of the church, and… How long the services were!
The Electoral Roll
“At the risk of becoming tedious, we again emphasize the very great importance, to the future well-being of the Church, of the signing of the Parochial Electoral Roll by every baptised Church person in the parish, who is over 18 years of age, whether he or she be a regular attendant at church or not.”
A century later, we say exactly the same thing! Please do make sure you fill in the form – it only takes a few seconds. It has no bearing on any local politics, or rights to vote in any elections other than the Annual Parish Meeting in April. But the Electoral Roll is the measure of our membership: of all those associated with the life of the Parish, those who look to us as their church, and all who wish to contribute to our ongoing practical and spiritual (and indeed financial) life. The lower age limit has dropped, incidentally, to 16. Anyone can join the Electoral Roll at any time (except in the days immediately preceding the APCM), and may stand for election to the PCC; as Churchwarden and may vote. It also confirms certain rights to baptism, marriage and interment in the Memorial Garden. This year we must wipe our Roll clean and start again, according to Church Law, so please remember to do this this month. There is no reason not to do this. In general, and it has been very stable this last decade or so, our ER has always been marginally under the 200 mark. Also, having (re)joined the ER, do consider if it is time to put yourself forward for nomination the PCC in April, or indeed to consider the role of Churchwarden this year. Do speak to Sally Elphick, Alison Reeve or myself about that.
“The business of the Parish Meeting was then proceeded with. Mr. George Saunders-Smith, as People’s warden, produced the Electoral Roll, which consisted of about 170 names of those who had become entitled to exercise the franchise of the church by signing the necessary form of declaration. The number is far below what it should be, being considerably less than the number of the Easter Day communicants.”
This is interesting, because now it is invariably the case that the ER has more names on it than the Easter Attendance. Life has changed, in pace and geographical range. People live outside the parish and worship with us, and there are those in the parish who worship elsewhere. And a great many who do not worship anywhere at all. Nevertheless the Electoral Roll is the measure of a the ‘size’ of a church – the number of affiliated, faithful disciples who look to the Spire on top of Windmill Hill as the beacon of a holy place, a spiritual home and place of warm welcome and fellowship in Jesus Christ. Nail your colours to that Spire and join the Electoral Roll!
Gordon (with thanks to Joy Heywood)