CONSECRATION OF CHURCHES AND
Consecration is the setting aside of land or buildings for sacred use in perpetuity. The consecration of a church or a burial ground can only be undertaken by a Bishop. It is usual for a written request to be made to the Bishop in the form of a Petition for Consecration. This is usually presented to the Bishop at the beginning of a consecration ceremony. The church or burial ground becomes legally consecrated upon the Bishop signing a document called a Sentence of Consecration, which is usually done in the course of a consecration ceremony.
When a church or burial ground has been consecrated, it becomes subject to the Bishop's jurisdiction (see Faculty Jurisdiction). As well as consecrating churches and churchyards in the diocese, the Bishop consecrates cemeteries owned by Parish Councils or other local authorities. Where a burial authority wishes to have all or part of a cemetery consecrated, it should write to the Diocesan Registrar with a request for the land to be consecrated by the Bishop. The request should be accompanied by:
- A plan of the land on A4 paper.
- A copy of the Conveyance or Transfer to the burial authority.
- A copy of the planning permission for change of use of the land to a burial ground.
The Registrar will prepare the necessary Petition for Consecration and Sentence of Consecration and arrange with the Bishop and the burial authority a date for the consecration ceremony.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: Are fees payable for a consecration?
- A: No fees are payable in the case of the consecration of a church, churchyard or churchyard extension. But where a burial authority wishes to have a public cemetery consecrated, the Diocesan Registrar is entitled to charge an appropriate fee for time spent on correspondence, the preparation of documents and attendance at the consecration ceremony.
- Q: Is there a special order of service?
- A: There is no prescribed form of service for a consecration. The form of the service will vary from diocese to diocese. The linked Order of Service is the one generally used in our Diocese for the consecration of a churchyard or churchyard extension, or for the consecration of a public cemetery.
- Q: Can the Bishop deconsecrate land or buildings?
- A: Yes, but only when land or a building is not vested in an ecclesiastical person or body (for example, a chapel in a public cemetery). In the case of a church or churchyard, the legal effects of consecration can only be removed by an Act of Parliament or a Measure of the General Synod of the Church of England, or under any power contained in any Act of Parliament or Measure. Examples would be the making of a pastoral scheme under the Pastoral Measure 1983, or the acquisition of part of a churchyard for road-widening by a local authority exercising compulsory purchase powers.
- Q: If a clergyman is asked to perform a burial service and discovers that the land in which the grave is dug is not consecrated, what should he do?
- A: He cannot first consecrate the grave, because only a Bishop can consecrate. Canon B.38.5 of the Canons of the Church of England provides that "When a body is to be buried according to the rites of the Church of England in any unconsecrated ground, the officiating minister, on coming to the grave, shall first bless the same".
- Q: How often do consecrations take place?
- A: In the Diocese of Peterborough, we average about two a year. See the attached list of Consecrations and Deconsecrations since 1990.