[Bell Historians] Sunderland Minster.

John Camp john at Ln5NelYYu-DhUu2zjm7vV3L9GKoW3eK3XwjlslZ4MumTUxe8VI8_DWqMjhgEPI48hcBzGdeY1MAR7wY.yahoo.invalid
Sun Dec 2 12:15:33 GMT 2007

A question was raised in the 'Church Times' about minsters.  It was
answered last week (30 November) as follows:

What is the rationale behind upgrading parish churches (e.g. Doncaster,
Rotherham, Dewsbury, and others) to the title of Minster Church?

In large towns, often in the North, the ancient mother church is called
"the Parish Church". This has led to some confusion, as they often have
no parish - except for a few shops and public buildings. Recently, a
happy idea of renaming them minster churches has cleared the confusion,
and underlined their role as mother churches of a town with a ministry
to it as a whole.

When Sunderland and later Preston became cities, the Bishops of Durham
and Blackburn designated the Parish Churches of Bishopwearmouth and
Preston as minsters. This also helped to assuage local civic opinion,
which mistakenly thought that, because they were cities, they should now
have cathedrals. Ancient minsters were served by a group of priests who
ministered to a wide area; so the term has roots in history.
(Canon) Roland Meredith, Eynsham, Witney

As far as Dewsbury is concerned, this was not an upgrading, but a return
to its roots. Some great minsters, such as York and Beverley, are
cathedrals. Throughout the country, there are also many little minsters.

On the internet, I found an article by Nick Spencer, "The Future of the
English Parish", produced for the Jubilee Centre. In it, he explains
that "These 'minsters' — the word is simply the Anglo-Saxon translation
of the Latin monasterium — were localised, collegiate churches, staffed
by a team of peripatetic clergy who travelled into their 'parochiae'
(large precursors of the parish) to preach the gospel and administer the
sacraments. . . Celtic monks preached and evangelised from their minster

We in Dewsbury still have Saxon stones in our building. We understand
that there was a large preaching cross, and that here a dozen monks
would have lived and worked. It is said that St Paulinus preached and
celebrated (the mass) in Dewsbury after he came to Northumbria and
converted King Edwin in AD 627.

I must admit that the restoration of the title "minster" is an
eye-catcher in this modern age, but it has worked well in attracting the
attention of the local community.

We are a Team Parish of four churches. Our staff is at present a team
rector, a team vicar, a curate, an honorary curate, and two Readers, of
whom I am one. Our refectory is open for six days each week, and
supplies food to the needy as well as to our many visitors and paying
customers. We have many volunteers who work to ensure that the minster
church and the others of the team serve the communities in Dewsbury.
Anne Robinson (Reader) Dewsbury

The impetus for St Peter ad Vincula, Stoke-on-Trent, to become a minster
came not from the Church, but from our local civic authorities. St
Peter's, a Saxon foundation, has always functioned as the civic church.
But the Stoke Civic Centre thought that a city of a quarter of a million
people ought to have a cathedral. This was obviously not possible: we
are happily part of Lichfield diocese. But the Bishop made St Peter’s
into Stoke Minster in 2005.

So the rationale is that where there is a significant population centre
at some considerable distance from the diocesan cathedral, there is a
need for a larger church to be the focus of a citywide ministry for
civic and other occasions.

"Upgrade", though, is the wrong word. This may be a different ministry;
it is not a "higher" one.
(Prebendary) David Lingwood (Rector of Stoke, and Churches City Link Officer) Stoke-on-Trent

The Anglo-Saxon minster at Dewsbury, on which I have done much research,
included in its parochia several sites where there is evidence for
pre-existing British churches. Stoke "Minster" at Stoke on Trent lies in
an area where Anglo-Saxon settlement was quite thin. There is little
evidence of any need for it to be re-evangelised by the Anglo-Saxon
Church. There seems to be no evidence that Doncaster was an early

Minsters in fact seem to have been communities of monks established by
Anglo-Saxon kings or later local nobles for reasons of either piety or
prestige. It was generally assumed that these monks ought to carry out
pastoral ministry among those living on these often extensive estates,
but, to judge by Bede's complaints, this was not always carried out. In
theory, too, minsters would become the focus for Christian life in their
area, through the holiness and devotion of their monks. All too often,
they seem to have been organs by which clerical and aristocratic élites
established their dominance over grassroots Christian communities.
Christopher M. Scargill Ipstones, Staffordshire


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