Leatherhead, Cobham and Effingham 
URC/Methodist Pastorate
The Context


The mission of the Methodist, URC and Anglican churches in Leatherhead is expressed through their local covenant together. 

This is underpinned by daily prayer, and has led to the joint employment of a Youth Worker, a Family and Children’s worker, a joint Holiday Club, and regular shared worship, including two initiatives in contemporary worship, (Triumph (a monthly youth led service) and New Fire (a monthly evening praise service)), and a quarterly shared Celtic communion. The three churches together jointly sponsor Trinity VC Church Primary School, and all three clergy are on the governing body.

Christ Church URC Leatherhead is currently a single pastorate. When the minister retires at the end of September this will not able to be sustained, and Christ Church were asked with whom they would wish to group. Rather than group with a URC at some distance away with whom they had little relationship, the request was to explore a grouping within the Covenant, and conversations started between Christ Church and Leatherhead Methodist Church about a way forward, looking towards a single Meth/URC minister in Leatherhead serving both churches. 

This would have several advantages over the two churches being served by ministers who had various other responsibilities in different areas. It would allow a real focus on the community projects being already sponsored by the churches through the Youth Worker, the Family and Children’s worker and Trinity school. It would help increase the sharing of life between the two churches so that maintenance issues took up less time, and there could be a greater opportunity to put our resources into looking outward in service and evangelism, in partnership with the Anglicans.

The appointment of pastoral charge of two churches of about 100 members is quite feasible, especially with the support of the lay workers. In principle the minister’s time would be split equally between the two churches, and this would need to be reflected in Sunday appointments, but in practice, so much of the work, such as with the Youth Project and the School, would be on behalf of both churches, there would need to be a lot of flexibility and understanding.

However, from a Methodist point of view, it was not possible to move towards this without taking into account the implications for the rest of the circuit, in particular for Cobham and Effingham Methodist churches who currently share a minister with Leatherhead Methodist Church.


In looking for a way forward in mission for Cobham Methodist Church, there have been several conversations about whether this might best be achieved in partnership with others. When it was learnt that the URC minister in Cobham was to retire in July this year and they would be unable to replace him, and would have to group with churches some distance away, with whom they had no shared life, Cobham Church Council asked the minister to have a conversation about future ministry with the Church Secretary of Cobham URC.

Knowing what the possibilities were for Leatherhead, it was agreed to explore whether it was feasible to appoint a minister to live in the Cobham URC manse to serve the two Cobham churches, and with a view to greater working together between them, to make the most of the resources of people and buildings they have to serve the people of Cobham in God’s name, and to build people up in faith and mission.

It was felt strongly by the Methodist congregation that a minister living in Cobham, would be best placed to assess the community needs which the Methodist building might help to meet, and that the two churches working under the same minister would be more likely to work together in providing the personnel to help meet those needs. 


There is a sense in which Effingham are caught in the middle of this situation. Given the numbers, it makes sense that they should come under the ministry of the minister in Cobham. Other than necessitating a change in minister, (and Effingham have had the same minister for 10 of the last 12 years), the situation is not dissimilar in terms of ministry to the one they have at the moment. The manse at Cobham is 12 minutes drive from Effingham Methodist church, the same as the time it takes to get there from the manse at Leatherhead (according to Google maps!). The minister will have three churches, and a smaller membership than the present minister, and no circuit or district responsibilities. There is some concern however, that with the minister living in Cobham and having two churches in Cobham, Effingham will become andafterthought, and that needs to be addressed. Effingham particularly values its place as part of the circuit, and is concerned that will be more difficult with a minister from a different tradition.

The Process

Cobham and Leatherhead URCs are at present in different URC Synods: Wessex and Southern, respectively, and there was an initial conversation between Ian Howarth, (Circuit Superintendent and Assistant Chair of Methodist District), Lesley Charlton, (Area Pastoral Sec, Southern Synod) and Michael Hopkins (Area Pastoral Sec, Wessex Synod). In that conversation it was agreed that the idea of a Pastorate of five churches, with one minister in Cobham looking after Cobham URC, Cobham Methodist and Effingham Methodist, and one in Leatherhead looking after Christ Church URC, and Leatherhead Methodist church should be explored.

From the Methodist standpoint it was important that the two appointments should be linked into a team, with the aim being to have one minister from each tradition, so people would not feel totally out of touch with their own tradition, and also that one might represent the other at some area denominational meetings to prevent too much doubling up. Also, the total membership of the five churches is 300, which at 150 a minister is just about viable. However, the Cobham, Effingham section is only 100 members, and without the wider grouping would not be acceptable to either denomination as a viable appointment. 

It was decided to hold a meeting of with two reps of each of the five churches, with the three denominational representatives.

That meeting agreed to further explore the idea, and each church was asked to meet to discuss it. 

All the churches have now met, had discussions and agreed to continue exploring the idea positively, while wanting some more details.

At a subsequent meeting of church reps, at which the District Ecumenical Officer and a circuit steward was also present, it was agreed that pending final agreement, work should be done between the Effingham and Cobham churches in drawing up a job profile for the minister to live in Cobham.

However, on the Methodist side, there is some question as to where the final approval of the scheme needs to come from, and the Circuit Leadership Team of the Dorking and Horsham Methodist Circuit are of the view it needs to be agreed formally at the Circuit Meeting on 29th September.

On the URC side, Church Meetings of the two churches have to authority to authorise it, but in consultation with the Synod.

It is important that Circuit Meeting and the two church meetings discuss and agree the same document .


Initially the current Minister of Leatherhead, Effingham and Cobham Methodist Churches would need to be called by Leatherhead URC, and a United Reformed Church Minister would be called by Cobham URC, and Cobham and Effingham Methodist Churches. Both Ministers would work across the full five churches as a team, but would be based in their respective areas.

This arrangement, whilst not common, is already recognised at Assembly/Connexional level by both churches, through the Methodist-URC Liaison Committee, and their publication Making It Work:


This arrangement is “Pattern D” on page 3.

This is therefore not an LEP and does not need approval from the respective head offices of the churches, and it does not need an official signed constitution. However, it is important that there are written, agreed procedures, particularly in terms of finance, and appointment of ministers.

The three Methodist churches would remain part of the Dorking and Horsham circuit, and on the plan. The two URC churches do not become part of the circuit, although there might be some negotiation about whether there could be a sharing of Local/Lay preachers from the circuit and URC synod.

Any Methodist minister would be part of the circuit. A URC minister would become Authorised to Minister to Methodists, and would have a place on Circuit meeting, Circuit Leadership Team, Local Preachers meeting and District Synod by invitation, while remaining part of the URC synod. Likewise the Methodist minister would have a place on the URC Synod, (what ever shape that takes and currently as 09 in the Wimbledon Area) and …? There would need to be negotiation about the appropriate number of meetings attended, and whether there is a possibility of one of the pair acting for the other, to prevent too much duplication. If there is a situation in which both ministers are from the same denomination it is vital then that the pastorate is represented in the appropriate councils of the other at ordained and lay level.

Financial Matters

The Methodist Church will receive funds, via circuit assessment, for one full time Minister paid by Cobham, Effingham, and Leatherhead Methodist Churches. The United Reformed Church will receive funds, via Ministry and Mission funds payments, for one full time Minister paid by Cobham and Leatherhead United Reformed Churches. All these payments will be regardless of who supplies their ministry, as this will be the simplest way of reaching the same conclusions. (This is fine as long as there is parity between the Methodist and URC stipend. Is there?)

The only difficulty regards local expenses. In the URC these are paid directly by the local church, as a further cost above M&M, but in Methodism they are paid by the circuit, funded out of assessment. These comprise council tax and water on the manse, and ministers travel, stationary, telephone, book allowance, computer, broadband, etc.

The discrepancy, therefore, is that a mechanism needs to be devised, currently, for Leatherhead URC to pay its share of the Methodist ministers’ expenses, and for Cobham and Effingham Methodist churches to pay towards these costs for a URC minister living in Cobham, noting that they already pay this in their assessment.

There are two solutions: either the circuit pays a sum to Cobham URC and Leatherhead URC pays a sum to the circuit to cover these costs, or Cobham and Leatherhead URCs both pay to the circuit, and these costs are all paid by the circuit for both ministers. The Treasurers understand the issues and are meeting soon to agree which process.

Procedure for the appointment of a URC Minister to serve primarily at Cobham URC and Cobham and Effingham Methodist Churches

1. This process can be revised and refined in the light of how it works for future appointments.

2. The “rules” for this process in the URC are contained in a document called “The Movement of Ministers”, which is available online at:


Whilst there may be adaptation and flexibility, any process will need to be in general conformity with this, and in keeping with the spirit of the process.

What happens:

1.A profile is produced by the team of all five churches, but with a strong emphasis on the three at Cobham and Effingham.

2.This post for a URC Minister would be a timed appointment for seven years from date of induction, extendable for a further three years.

3.Any prospective minister would be invited for an informal, probably midweek, visit, which would include all of the following elements:

Meeting with the other minister in post
Visit to all five church premises
Visit to the URC Manse in Cobham
Meeting with representatives of all five churches

4.The prospective minister would then decide whether or not to proceed further. The meeting of church representatives would likewise decide whether or not to proceed further. The latter meeting would take into account the views of the other minister in reaching that decision.

5.When both parties wish to proceed, a candidate will be invited for a weekend visit, which will include meeting members from all the churches, and “preaching with a view”. This will be a united service at Cobham URC.

6.In order to reach a decision on whether to issue a call, the a combined Church Meeting of the three churches, with observers from the other two, whose views shall be made clear to the meeting, will need to issue a call. This will be by secret ballot of members present and voting and there shall be no postal or proxy votes, although the views of those unable to be present may be given to the meeting. In order for a call to be issued it will require 75% of votes in favour.

7.A service of (ordination and) induction and welcome would be held to the whole of the five churches, and would need to reflect both URC and Methodist elements.

8.Concurrence would need to be given by the URC Synod and the Methodist Circuit.

Appointment of Methodist ministers into the Pastorate

In the first instance Christ Church URC has agreed to put an appointments process in place for Rev Ian Howarth. This will involve meeting with the church meeting and is subject to a 75% vote.(Is that correct each local church sets its own number) There needs to be some discussion about the implications for all five churches, and the circuit (and Ian Howarth), if that vote is not achieved.

It raises the question of to what extent churches can continue to act autonomously in the appointment of ministers, or need to take into account the needs of the whole pastorate.

There has also been a request from Christ Church that Ian Howarth’s appointment be extended if he is appointed as joint minister, but there needs to be a recognition that Ian Howarth’s appointment is in the hands of the circuit, and ultimately of the Methodist Conference, not the local church(es).

On future occasions, Methodist ministers will have to be appointed through the Methodist system, in which a job profile is agreed between the churches where the minister will serve and the circuit, and the appointment is made after a visit from the minister matched with them by the national stationing committee. The decision to appoint is made by the Circuit Invitation Committee, which consists in Dorking and Horsham circuit of the Circuit Leadership Team and representatives of the churches to which the minister has been matched.

URC Synod boundaries

Currently Cobham URC is in the Wessex Synod, and Leatherhead URC is in the Southern Synod. It is unrealistic for the appointment to work straddling two Synods, and one church needs to move into a different Synod.

Overall it is recommended that Cobham URC move into Southern Synod because:

i) the remainder of the circuit is in the area of Southern Synod
ii) the Methodist South East district is wholly covered by Southern Synod
iii) Cobham URC is geographically closer to Southern Synod churches

The process for this needs to be:

1.Cobham URC Church Meeting needs to request that it be moved from Wessex Synod to Southern Synod. (This is to be on the agenda of a Church Meeting on 28 July).

2.This request needs to be agreed by Wessex and Southern Synods.

3.The formal moving needs to be decided the URC General Assembly (or its Executive body the “Mission Council”).

The Mission Council could agree the third stage in December 2009, but if both Synods are agreeable we could informally work on the basis of agreement at an earlier stage.

The question of trusteeship of manse and church will need addressing in due course, but this can be left for now pending legal advice.

Future ministry

The aim is to combine a desire for there to be both a URC and a Methodist minister in the pastorate, and for alternating ministry between URC and Methodist ministers in each appointment. To say that there will be alternating ministry in each appointment, could mean, that if a minister leaves early, there could be a long period of both ministers being of the same denomination. On the other hand if ministers don’t change at the same time, there is a danger of one appointment becoming permanently URC and the other permanently Methodist. The fact of increasingly long URC interregnums also complicates the situation (and worries the Methodists). 

One possible way forward is when there is a vacancy on the horizon, (Methodist ministers are able to give 15 months notice, I don’t know how long is possible for URC ministers), there is a discussion with URC Moderator and Methodist Chair and representatives of all five churches about whether it is more appropriate to go for a URC or a Methodist minister at that time, balancing the needs of the individual churches and those of the whole group, and being realistic about ministerial availability. 

Sharing Agreements on Manses

There are three manses, of which only two are currently needed. The unused manse will be let according to the appropriate denominational procedure and circumstance. In the longer term, it would be appropriate and helpful for there to be sharing agreements on both manses, to consolidate the partnership and facilitate free and legal use of either manse by a minister of either denomination.

Outstanding issues:

1)Working out the financial implications for the circuit if a URC minister is in post in Leatherhead and it costs more than for a Methodist minister.
2)Procedures for appointing ministers, and extending their invitations, when the two (or three) churches are not in agreement.
3)Working out the balance between the desire for alternating URC and Methodist ministers in each appointment, and the need for a balance of URC and Methodist ministry across the pastorate.
4)Does the reduction in URC ministry and the rent from a manse release finances into the pastorate for admin help and paid lay community work?
5)There are particular personal issues about the extension Ian Howarth’s invitation that need the right forum to be talked through, where all can feel they are heard. Also, if Christ Church do not reach the 75% majority in appointing IH, what are the implications for the rest of the group?