A statement regarding St Peter's, Bredhurst

25 June 2020

A statement from the Diocese of Rochester, regarding the church yard at St Peter's Churchyard:

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Rochester said:

St Peter’s churchyard is Church of England land which has been consecrated - made sacred - by a Bishop. This means that it has been placed under the care and protection of the Church, giving it a special status in law. St Peter’s is also a Grade II listed building, which means it is important that the churchyard must be a fitting context for the church building. 

Like all Church of England churchyards across the country, there are a set of Regulations which parishes like St Peter’s Bredhurst, are legally obliged to follow. This is so that these shared sacred spaces can remain peaceful and beautiful places, reflecting the Christian context of the churchyard, now and for future generations.

It makes church yards very different from local authority cemeteries where different rules apply, and which are usually more flexible.

The Regulations apply to all churches in the same way, but following complaint to the church about the degree of non-compliance in some parts of the churchyard at St Peter's, the Chancellor, or judge for the Diocese, issued a Judgment in 2017 and added to it this year. This permitted the parish to remove and dispose of any items which had been, or which continued to be, placed in the churchyard that contravened the Regulations.

Those seeking to arrange a burial in the churchyard at St Peter’s are made fully aware of the Regulations in advance. This means that not only do most people comply, but they also express how pleased and grateful they are for the careful way in which the churchyard is maintained and tended.

The churchyard is carefully monitored on a weekly basis, and items that are not permitted within the Regulations are removed. This is always done respectfully and sensitively by members of St Peter’s churchyard team, all of whom are volunteers and who take their responsibility very seriously.

We appreciate that being able to remember departed loved ones, particularly at this time, is vitally important. As a Diocese, we are committed to assisting St Peter’s in their ministry to the bereaved, while helping people understand the need to comply with the Churchyard Regulations, which are about enabling everyone to feel comfortable in commemorating their departed family members in the churchyard.

We also appreciate that some of the difficult decisions that have had to be made at St Peter’s to ensure the Regulations are abided by, have provoked some strong emotion and reaction. This is of course deeply regrettable, and so we continue to support and pray for work being taken to move this situation forward positively. At the same time, as a Diocese we cannot accept the intimidation of volunteers and church officers for carrying out their legal obligations and we will take any such incidents seriously.

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