What is a Deanery?

Looking over Batheaston and Bathford from Solsbury Hill

Bath Deanery is within the Diocese of Bath & Wells, part of the Church of England. At first glance, it can be hard to understand how a Deanery and it’s various groups work together and who has responsibility for what!

To help understand the role of a Deanery in the life of a church, our former Lay Dean (Jeremy Key-Pugh) wrote the following description…

A Deanery is made up of of all the Anglican parishes in a local area and its Synod is the body of laity and clergy who represent them. There are 19 deaneries in the Diocese of Bath & Wells, and Bath is the largest of them – by the number of members it’s churches have. Parish clergy, whether incumbents, associates or curates, are all members of Deanery Synod automatically, as are chaplains holding a Bishop’s Licence; laity are elected by the Annual Parochial Church Meetings in their own parish and serve for three years. Deanery Synods are accountable to Diocesan Synod and also elect members – clergy and laity – to Diocesan Synod (and to General Synod, the body for the national church). Not all parishes elect the same number of laity to deanery synod; and not all deanery synods elect the same number of clergy and laity to diocesan synod: the more members you have, the more representatives you can elect, at both levels of the system. 

Deaneries have a Chapter, which is a meeting of all the clergy in the deanery – those who are members of the deanery synod AND those who have Permission to Officiate instead of a Bishop’s Licence. (This mostly applies to retired priests who require PTO in order to help out in churches on an occasional and voluntary basis.) Most Chapters now invite the Lay Dean of the Deanery to attend as a sign that in the 21st century, the Church of England believes in leadership being shared between clergy and laity. 

Deaneries also have a Deanery Mission and Pastoral Group (or DMPG for short). The task of these DMPGs is to make sure that deaneries, and the parishes in them, focus on mission and evangelism, which are the first priority in the diocesan vision. The ‘Pastoral’ part of the name refers to their role in helping the diocese to place its clergy in the right places to make the best use of their skills and gifts. It is clear than not every single parish can have a parish priest – or at least, not a full-time, paid one – and a Deanery’s Mission Plan should contain plans to make sure that clergy are spread fairly and effectively across the deanery, to best effect in mission and evangelism. The DMPG is accountable to the Archdeaconry Mission and Pastoral Group.

In a large Deanery, the DMPG is necessarily a large body, so there is a smaller Deanery Leadership Team, consisting of the Area Dean, Lay Dean, Assistant Area Dean or Deans (when there are any). It may be joined by the other officers of Synod – the Honorary Treasurer and the Honorary Secretary as business requires. The Deanery Leadership Team works closely with the Archdeacon whom they meet regularly, and its chief role is to have oversight of the business of both Synod and the DMPG and do their best to ensure that these bodies can, and actually do, get on with the tasks entrusted to them.