Better together!

Hambledon and Busbridge Ecclesiastical Parish unification proposal

Hambledon Church deeply values its strong relationships with the Hambledon village community and the parish of Busbridge. It is for this reason that we would like to inform you of some possible developments concerning the future of the church.

As you may be aware Hambledon and Busbridge parish churches are part of a benefice that was formed 20 years ago and this his has been a very successful partnership.

Over the past year both Parish Church Councils’ (PCC) have been discussing a proposal to unify the benefice into a single parish with a view to future proof this relationship. (Please note this is a proposal to unify only the ecclesiastical parishes and does not affect the civic parish councils in any way).

Our thinking is poignant because nationally the Church of England can no longer afford to support a fully functioning parish church in every community. In time and by necessity the practise of pastoral re-organisation (i.e. combining smaller parishes together) is likely to become more common.  In many situations it becomes one vicar covering many villages which inevitably leads to severe limitations both on public worship services and localised pastoral care.  We have no intention of allowing that to happen for Busbridge and Hambledon. Our thinking centres around strengthening what we have rather than diluting it. The Church of England is facing massive changes and there are real questions about how many church buildings and vicars there are to be. We want to offer our own early answer that will protect and enhance what has been built up over generations namely: providing local leadership to our own local churches and maintaining control over our finances and pastoral care.

The Church of England celebrates an extraordinary unity amongst the diverse parish communities that it seeks to serve.  However, within this diversity there are inevitably some cultural, traditional and theological nuances that are more closely aligned than others.  The close relationship between Busbridge and Hambledon is a fine example of such shared values.  Part of the concern over any potential pastoral reorganisation is that these values might be weakened and perhaps even lost if the churches were combined with other parishes not so closely aligned. Furthermore unless we take the initiative there is a risk whereby reorganisation might be imposed upon us.

A unification then can be seen through two lenses. The first is to secure the close relationship that Busbridge and Hambledon currently enjoy and the other is to build on the vision, values and resources that both parishes have worked so passionately toward over past decades.

What would a unification mean in practice?

  • In becoming one parish a new ecclesiastical parish would be formed by a balance of representatives from each church. Standard eligibility rules would apply. This is no different to our current set up
  • The financial accounts of both churches can be treated separately if necessary. This would mean that (if desired) any donations given to Hambledon could remain for Hambledonian purposes and vice versa for Busbridge. Again this is current practice
  • Weddings, funerals and baptisms would remain unaffected
  • The terms of the unification will ensure that Hambledon will continue to keep a clergy property and priest whose primary role will be designated to the village. This has been the stated vision which we’ve consistently maintained for many years and is a reason we approached the village in 2018. Nothing has changed with this vision
  • Both churches would continue to have its own elected wardens who would join other elected representatives from the single PCC to consult on any building and fabric issues. Hambledon would therefore maintain control of its own building and grounds
  • Services and pastoral care at both churches will continue to be shared by both churches. A unification has no bearing on the style or types of services the parish would/could offer. This would remain under the control of the Rector and Hambledon’s Associate Vicar but in consultation with the single PCC and set within the wider parameters of the national Church of England. Indeed we are keen to build an even stronger village focus with the services we offer

Concerns about the proposal have been expressed as follows:

  • Hambledon Church might loose a sense of its own identity if it is morphed into a wider single parish. This view has been taken seriously and the full unification document has caveats (the major points have been covered above) to prevent this. A core value of the current benefice is to celebrate our distinctive local identities and to offer church services that meaningfully engage with our location, history and community.
  • What about our relationship with neighbouring parishes other than Busbridge? Will they be consulted/included? The process of unification means that a vote is first taken at parish level and then forwarded to the diocese. A wider consultation with our neighbouring parishes is not required at this stage but is very much part of the process after the initial parish consultation. Anyone with a view will be invited to write in with any queries at the appropriate time. The process is comprehensive and all views will be collated and considered by the Diocese and Chancellor. Whilst a unification between Busbridge and Hambledon would secure our relationship, this does not preclude the mutual collaboration and support we currently enjoy with our neighbouring parishes. 

Busbridge church has voted unanimously in favour and awaits a decision from Hambledon PCC.

If you have questions or just want to know more please contact Rev. Simon Willetts no later than Sunday 18th April 2021. All comments will be anonymously shared with the PCC.

This article has been posted in the village magazine and the village website. Members of the church and ecclesiastical electoral roll have been contacted under GDPR guidelines either by email or by letter.

Yours faithfully 

Rev. Simon Willetts
simon.willetts@bhcgodalming.org or via the church office 01483 421267

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