Church of England parish church
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A parish church in the Church of England is the church which acts as the religious centre for the people within the smallest and most basic Church of England administrative region, the parish – since the 19th century called the ecclesiastical parish (outside of meetings of the church) to avoid confusion with the civil parish which many towns and villages have.
Parishes in England
In England, there are parish churches for both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. References to a "parish church", without mention of a denomination, will, however, almost certainly be to those of the Church of England due to its status as the Established Church.
The Church of England is made up of parishes, each one forming part of a diocese. Almost every part of England is within both a parish and a diocese (there are very few non-pariochial areas and some parishes not in dioceses). These ecclesiastical parishes are often no longer the same as the civil parishes in local government. Larger towns and cities, even those with cathedrals, still have ecclesiastical parishes and parish churches.
Each parish is ministered to by a parish priest, usually called a vicar, rector or priest-in-charge. More rarely the parish priest is known as a "perpetual curate". In one instance only the priest is also, by historical custom, officially known as an "archpriest". Each parish usually has one active parish church, though rarely and historically more than one; if there is no parish church, the bishop will usually license another building and may designate it as a Parish Centre of Worship. A parish may also be served by a number of chapels of ease. Unused 'redundant' parish churches may exist in parishes formed by the merging of two or more parishes, or because of the cost of upkeep. These redundant churches may survive as ruins, remain empty, or be converted for alternative uses.
Church of England parish churches are the oldest churches to be found in England, often built before the 16th-century reformation, and so originally Roman Catholic (some of the very oldest, pre-Great Schism, were even Orthodox). A number are substantially of Anglo-Saxon date and all subsequent periods of architecture are represented in the country. Most parishes have churches that date back to the Middle Ages, though often with many later additions and/or alterations. The parish churches of the City of London are particularly famous for their Baroque architecture. Each building reflects its status and there is considerable variety in the size and style of parish churches. Some very large former monastic or collegiate churches are now parish churches, not always in their complete original form. As well as their architecture, many Church of England parish churches are known for their interesting and beautiful church fittings which are often remarkable survivals. These may include monuments, hatchments, wall paintings, stained glass, floor tiles, carved pews, choir stalls (perhaps with misericords), lecterns and fonts, sometimes even shrines or vestments.
The Church of England parish church was always fundamental to the life of every community, especially in rural areas. However, by the late 20th and early 21st century, with the decline in the number of worshippers and the shortage of Anglican priests, there has been a trend towards team or shared ministry and many parish churches no longer have a service every Sunday.
Notable parish churches
Notable Church of England parish churches include:
- Ashmanhaugh, Norfolk, St. Swithin, The smallest round-tower church in the UK.
- Barton-upon-Humber, North Lincolnshire, St Peter's Church: good Saxon tower
- Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire, Beverley Minster: Perpendicular west front, continuous vault, Percy tomb, Hawksmoor font cover.
- Boston, Lincolnshire, St Botolph's Church: The Stump, lantern interior, 62 misericords.
- Bristol, St Mary Redcliffe Church: Twin porches, Perpendicular interior, 1,200 roof bosses.
- Brompton, Kensington, London, Holy Trinity ("HTB"): Evangelical Anglican church where the Alpha course was first developed.
- Brent, London, St Gabriels, Cricklewood, a New Wine church home to an historic organ used in BBC radio recitals.
- Burford, Oxfordshire, St John's Church: Merchants' guild chapel, Red Indian memorial, Kempe glass.
- Canterbury, Kent, St Martin's: oldest surviving CofE parish church of English origin
- Cheadle, Staffordshire, St Giles's Church: Pugin's complete 13th-century recreation.
- Christchurch, Dorset, Christchurch Priory: Norman exterior, Decorated screen, Perpendicular tombs and chantries.
- Cirencester, Gloucestershire, St John the Baptist's Church: Perpendicular porch, fan vaults, merchants' tombs.
- Culbone, Somerset, St Culbone's Church: smallest parish church in England
- Doncaster, St George's Minster: "South Yorkshire's most majestic building"
- Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, All Saints' Church.
- Fairford, Gloucestershire, St Mary's Church: Complete set of medieval glass, stone carvings, misericords.
- Gawber, Barnsley, St Thomas the Apostle: a most beautiful small church in South Yorkshire
- Grantham, Lincolnshire, St Wulfram's Church: Steeple and west front, Decorated tracery, Corbel-table carvings.
- Hull, Yorkshire, Holy Trinity Church: claims to be the largest parish church in the country
- Leeds, Parish Church of St. Peter: Leeds has no Anglican cathedral, so the Parish church has several administrative functions below that of Ripon Cathedral.
- Liverpool, Our Lady and St Nicholas: Liverpool's 'sailors' church', traditional emigrant's landmark on leaving for the New World
- Long Melford, Suffolk, Holy Trinity Church: Richest East Anglian church, Clopton Chantry, Lily Crucifix, medieval glass.
- Ludlow, Shropshire: St Laurence's Church: Medieval Palmers' glass, Pietà bench-end, civic tombs.
- Ottery St Mary, Devon: Miniature Exeter Cathedral, painted roof, fan-vaulted aisle.
- Patrington, East Riding of Yorkshire, St Patrick's Church: Octagonal tower top, Decorated carvings throughout.
- Pershore Abbey, Worcestershire: former abbey restored by George Gilbert Scott
- Plymouth, Devon, St Andrew's Church: rebuilt after World War II
- Selby, North Yorkshire, Selby Abbey: Norman nave, chancel stiff-leaf, east window tracery with medieval glass.
- Sherborne, Dorset, Sherborne Abbey: Complete fan vault, carved bosses, misericords.
- Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury Abbey: Norman nave, 'Son of York' bosses, Despenser tombs, medieval glass.
- Walpole St Peter, Norfolk, St Peter's Church: Nave woodwork, font cover, 'bolt-hole' tunnel.
- Warwick, Warwickshire, St Mary's Church: Beauchamp Chapel and tombs.
- Westminster, London, All Saints, Margaret Street: Anglo-Catholic shrine.
- Westminster, London, St Margaret's: the parish church of the British Houses of Parliament
- Churches Conservation Trust
- Historical development of Church of England dioceses
- Architecture of the medieval cathedrals of England
- Stained glass - British glass, 1811-1918
- Greater Churches Group
- Pevsner, N.; et al. (1951–74). The Buildings of England (46 vols. ed.). London: Penguin Books.
- Jenkins, Simon (1999). England's Thousand Best Churches. photog. Paul Barker. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9281-6.
- Morris, Richard (1989). Churches in the Landscape. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.
- The Ground Plan of the English Parish Church by A. Hamilton Thompson
- Church of England website
- Find a Church in the Church of England ("A Church Near You")
- Historical resources on the Church of England
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