The Diocese of Winchester has announced plans to reorganise the parishes of Bransgore and Hinton with the parishes of Sopley and Burley. At the moment, Sopley is part of a benefice (collection of parishes under a single vicar) with Burton; Bransgore and Hinton are in another benefice and Burley is a parish on its own. In the proposed plan, Burton will join with Mudeford; Sopley and Burley will join with Bransgore and Hinton. It is proposed that both of these new groups become parishes, rather than benefices, each with their own vicar. The Burley, Bransgore, Hinton and Sopley parish will also have the assistance of a House for Duty minister. A parish is an independent legal entity with its own committee, wardens, treasurer and other positions, taking responsibility for at least one Church and its designated local area. Under this plan, Burley, Bransgore, Hinton and Sopley would cease to be independent parishes, but would share one committee as a way of simplifying governance. Here is a map of what the new parishes would look like:
The context of these changes is perhaps obvious. The Church of England is under serious financial pressure in the face of national trends and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan allows for the financial saving made by cutting a clergy post. A period of consultation on these plans has now begun. Decisions are still to be made about the nature of the new group of churches: whether they form a parish or a benefice and, if the former, which Church will be the parish Church. Please get in touch or comment below with your responses. If there are a great number of questions, we will attempt to answer them together as soon as is possible.
With every crisis come opportunities. It may be difficult to see where some of those opportunities are at this stage, but we in the benefice of Bransgore and Hinton look forward to welcoming our friends and fellow disciples of Christ from Sopley and Burley parishes. As your vicar, I will work hard to make sure we continue to see the growth and new life we have become accustomed to seeing and to ensure that coming changes make as little difference as possible to our mission and ministry. Please see below for a document detailing the timetable for consultation and reorganisation. The Bransgore and Hinton PCCs have a meeting with the Bishop on the 3rd of March to discuss this, so you may like to submit your thoughts before then.
The Revd Dr Ben Sargent