Parish church

Last updated
The Catholic parish church of Gampern, Upper Austria Gampern - Kirche (1).JPG
The Catholic parish church of Gampern, Upper Austria
A parish church in Gloucestershire, England Hasfield Parish Church.jpg
A parish church in Gloucestershire, England
The Parish Church of Combe Martin in North Devon, England
The Parish Church of Combe Martin in North Devon, England
Inside the parish church of Saint Lawrence in Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, England St Lawrence's Church nave and chancel, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire.jpg
Inside the parish church of Saint Lawrence in Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, England

A parish church (or parochial church) in Christianity is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish. In many parts of the world, especially in rural areas, the parish church may play a significant role in community activities, often allowing its premises to be used for non-religious community events. The church building reflects this status, and there is considerable variety in the size and style of parish churches. Many villages in Europe have churches that date back to the Middle Ages, but all periods of architecture are represented.


Roman Catholic Church

Each diocese (administrative unit, headed by a Bishop) is divided into parishes. Normally, a parish comprises all Catholics living within its geographically defined area. Within a diocese, there can also be overlapping parishes for Catholics belonging to a particular rite, language, nationality, or community. [1] [2]

Each parish has its own central church called the parish church, where religious services take place. The parish church is the center of most Catholics' spiritual life since it is there that they receive the sacraments. On Sundays and perhaps also daily, Mass is celebrated by a priest resident in the parish. Confession is made available and perhaps Vespers in the larger or more progressive parishes. There are also laity-led activities and social events in accordance with local culture and circumstances.

Roman Catholics are not obliged to worship only at the parish church to which they belong, but they may for convenience or taste attend services at any Roman Catholic church. [3] However, their parish church is the one to which the members of the parish must go for baptisms and weddings, unless permission is given by the parish priest (US 'pastor') for celebrating those sacraments elsewhere. One sign of that is that the parish church is the only one to have a baptismal font.

Some larger parishes or parishes that have been combined under one parish priest may have two or more such churches, or the parish may be responsible for chapels (or chapels of ease) located at some distance from the mother church for the convenience of distant parishioners.

Church of England and Church of Scotland

In England and many British Overseas Territories and former British territories, the Church of England parish church is the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches. Nearly every part of England is designated as a parish, there being both ecclesiastic parishes and civil parishes, which overlie each other, but since the nineteenth century have not shared the same names or boundaries (in other territories arrangements may differ, eg in Bermuda civil and church parishes still share the same boundaries, see Anglican Church of Bermuda). Most parishes have an Anglican parish church, which is consecrated. If there is no parish church, the bishop licenses another building for worship, and may designate it as a parish centre of worship. This building is not consecrated, but is dedicated,[ clarification needed ] and for most legal purposes it is deemed to be a parish church. [4] In areas of increasing secularisation or shifts in religious belief, centres of worship are becoming more common, and larger churches are sold due to their upkeep costs. Instead the church may use community centres or the facilities of a local church of another denomination.

While smaller villages may have a single parish church, larger towns may have a parish church and other smaller churches in various districts. These churches do not have the legal or religious status of 'parish church' and may be described by a variety of terms, such as chapel of ease or mission church. Often the parish church will be the only one to have a full-time minister, who will also serve any smaller churches within the parish. (For example, St. Peter's Church in St. George's Parish, Bermuda, is located on St. George's Island; Aachapel-of-ease (named simply Chapel-of-Ease) was erected on neighbouring St. David's Island so that the island's residents need not cross St. George's Harbour). [5]

In cities without an Anglican cathedral, the parish church may have administrative functions similar to that of a cathedral. However, the diocese will still have a cathedral.

The Church of Scotland, the established Presbyterian church, also uses a system of parish churches, covering the whole of Scotland.

In American Protestantism

In Massachusetts, towns elected publicly funded parish churches from 1780 until 1834, under the Constitution of Massachusetts.

Protestant resurgence

Toward the end of the 20th century, a new resurgence in interest in "parish" churches emerged across the United States. This has given rise to efforts like the Slow Church Movement and The Parish Collective which focus heavily on localized involvement across work, home, and church life. [6] [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anglicanism</span> Christian denominational tradition

Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation, in the context of the Reformation in Europe. It is one of the largest branches of Christianity, with around 110 million adherents worldwide as of 2001.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Church of England</span> Anglican state church of England

The Church of England is the established Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the 3rd century and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.

A parish is a territorial entity in many Christian denominations, constituting a division within a diocese. A parish is under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of a priest, often termed a parish priest, who might be assisted by one or more curates, and who operates from a parish church. Historically, a parish often covered the same geographical area as a manor. Its association with the parish church remains paramount.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cathedral</span> Christian church that is the seat of a bishop

A cathedral is a church that contains the cathedra of a bishop, thus serving as the central church of a diocese, conference, or episcopate. Churches with the function of "cathedral" are usually specific to those Christian denominations with an episcopal hierarchy, such as the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and some Lutheran churches. Church buildings embodying the functions of a cathedral first appeared in Italy, Gaul, Spain, and North Africa in the 4th century, but cathedrals did not become universal within the Western Catholic Church until the 12th century, by which time they had developed architectural forms, institutional structures, and legal identities distinct from parish churches, monastic churches, and episcopal residences. The cathedral is more important in the hierarchy than the church because it is from the cathedral that the bishop governs the area under his or her administrative authority.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chapel</span> Christian place of prayer and worship

A chapel is a Christian place of prayer and worship that is usually relatively small. The term has several meanings. Firstly, smaller spaces inside a church that have their own altar are often called chapels; the Lady chapel is a common type of these. Secondly, a chapel is a place of worship, sometimes non-denominational, that is part of a building or complex with some other main purpose, such as a school, college, hospital, palace or large aristocratic house, castle, barracks, prison, funeral home, cemetery, airport, or a military or commercial ship. Thirdly, chapels are small places of worship, built as satellite sites by a church or monastery, for example in remote areas; these are often called a chapel of ease. A feature of all these types is that often no clergy were permanently resident or specifically attached to the chapel.

A vicar is a representative, deputy or substitute; anyone acting "in the person of" or agent for a superior. Linguistically, vicar is cognate with the English prefix "vice", similarly meaning "deputy". The title appears in a number of Christian ecclesiastical contexts, but also as an administrative title, or title modifier, in the Roman Empire. In addition, in the Holy Roman Empire a local representative of the emperor, perhaps an archduke, might be styled "vicar".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minister (Christianity)</span> Religious occupation in Christianity

In Christianity, a minister is a person authorised by a church or other religious organization to perform functions such as teaching of beliefs; leading services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals; or otherwise providing spiritual guidance to the community. The term is taken from Latin minister. In some church traditions the term is usually used for people who have ordained, but in other traditions it can also be used for non-ordained people who have a pastoral or liturgical ministry.

A dean, in an ecclesiastical context, is a cleric holding certain positions of authority within a religious hierarchy. The title is used mainly in the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and many Lutheran denominations. A dean's assistant is called a sub-dean.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anglican sacraments</span>

In keeping with its prevailing self-identity as a via media or "middle path" of Western Christianity, Anglican sacramental theology expresses elements in keeping with its status as a church in the catholic tradition and a church of the Reformation. With respect to sacramental theology the Catholic tradition is perhaps most strongly asserted in the importance Anglicanism places on the sacraments as a means of grace, sanctification and forgiveness as expressed in the church's liturgy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anglican Church of Melanesia</span>

The Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM), also known as the Church of the Province of Melanesia and the Church of Melanesia (COM), is a church of the Anglican Communion and includes nine dioceses in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The Archbishop of Melanesia is Leonard Dawea. He succeeds the retired archbishop George Takeli.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anglican ministry</span> Leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion

The Anglican ministry is both the leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion. "Ministry" commonly refers to the office of ordained clergy: the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons. More accurately, Anglican ministry includes many laypeople who devote themselves to the ministry of the church, either individually or in lower/assisting offices such as lector, acolyte, sub-deacon, Eucharistic minister, cantor, musicians, parish secretary or assistant, warden, vestry member, etc. Ultimately, all baptized members of the church are considered to partake in the ministry of the Body of Christ.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St. Peter's Cathedral (Charlottetown)</span>

St. Peter's Cathedral, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, was founded in 1869 as a result of the influence of the Oxford Movement. Since that time, the parish has remained Anglo-Catholic in ethos and practice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Church of England parish church</span> Church which acts as the religious centre within a Church of England parish

A parish church in the Church of England is the church which acts as the religious centre for the people within each Church of England parish.

In the Catholic Church, a parish is a stable community of the faithful within a particular church, whose pastoral care has been entrusted to a parish priest, under the authority of the diocesan bishop. It is the lowest ecclesiastical subdivision in the Catholic episcopal polity, and the primary constituent unit of a diocese or eparchy. Parishes are extant in both the Latin and Eastern Catholic Churches. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law, parishes are constituted under cc. 515–552, entitled "Parishes, Pastors, and Parochial Vicars."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anglican Church of Bermuda</span> Extra-provincial Church of the Anglican Communion

The Anglican Church of Bermuda is a single diocese consisting of nine parishes and is part of the Anglican Communion, though not a part of an ecclesiastical province. The current Bishop of Bermuda, seated at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in the City of Hamilton, is Nicholas Dill who was installed on 29 May 2013.

A personal ordinariate for former Anglicans, shortened as personal ordinariate or Anglican ordinariate, is a canonical structure within the Catholic Church established in order to enable "groups of Anglicans" to join the Catholic Church while preserving elements of their liturgical and spiritual patrimony.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Bermuda</span>

The Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity is an Anglican cathedral located on Church Street in the City of Hamilton, in Pembroke Parish, in the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter</span> Diocese-like institution of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter is a special Catholic diocese for Anglican and Methodist converts in the United States and Canada. It allows these parishioners to maintain elements of Anglican liturgy and tradition in their services. The ordinariate was established by the Vatican in 2012.

A rector is, in an ecclesiastical sense, a cleric who functions as an administrative leader in some Christian denominations. In contrast, a vicar is also a cleric but functions as an assistant and representative of an administrative leader.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cathedral of Saint Theresa of Lisieux</span> Roman Catholic cathedral in Bermuda

The Cathedral of Saint Theresa of Lisieux, or the Cathedral of Saint Theresa of the Little Flower, normally referred to as St. Theresa's Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Hamilton, in the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda. It is one of two cathedrals in Hamilton, the other being that of the state church, the Anglican church of Bermuda, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. St. Theresa's is the seat of the Catholic Bishop of Bermuda.


  1. "canon 518", Code of Canon Law
  2. Bruce, Tricia Colleen (2017). Parish and place : making room for diversity in the American Catholic church. ISBN   9780190270346. OCLC   999442986.
  3. "canon 1248 §1", 1983 Code of Canon Law
  4. Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011, s.43
  5. St. Peter's Church: Parish Chapel-of-Ease
  6. "Slow Church blog" . Retrieved 2014-07-07.
  7. "Redefining the Parish Model" . Retrieved 2014-07-07.