Vicar accused of '˜desecration' at his very own village church

A vicar has been accused of '˜desecrating' his own churchyard, after bereaved families were warned plastic flowers and photos left on graves will be removed.

Friday, 27th May 2016, 11:09 am
Updated Friday, 27th May 2016, 1:13 pm
News

A vicar has been accused of ‘desecrating’ his own churchyard, after bereaved families were warned plastic flowers and photos left on graves will be removed.

The Rev Charles Burch of St Lawrence’s Church in Bovingdon, has been accused by parishioners of leaving “insensitive” notes on graves, informing them of the new diktat.

But the church say its hands are tied as the rules are set by the Diocese of St Albans.

Edward Yearley, 49, who has lived in Bovingdon and Flaunden all his life, said: “I went to my parents’ grave and they’d left a notice explaining it all in a paper envelope.

“I only buried my mother in February. The grave was just mud and stone so I put some soil on it and some artificial flowers. It was only a very minor change.

“I live in the village and go to the grave every day.”

Mr Yearley believes that around 100 graves are affected by the move, and added that he was particularly concerned for the families of young children who had been buried in the graveyard.

He added that nothing was mentioned about the restrictions when he first bought the plot.

And he believes that the churchyard looks far better with the relatives of the deceased tending to it.

Mr Yearley said: “There are lots of overgrown graves, yet people who look after the graves and make them look better are being punished for having flowers out.

“I understand that there should be some rules, but this seems to be out of proportion and very upsetting for everyone. I know that I was upset – I couldn’t believe it.”

He added: “I was hoping to be buried here myself when I die, but I wouldn’t want my friends and family to go through this.”

Mr Burch said: “This isn’t a new policy. We’re trying to maintain the existing policy, and the regulations which are set for church grave yards nationally.

“We want to be even-handed, sensitive and fair.”

Mr Burch did not know how many grave plots had had notes left on them, but stressed that maintaining the four-and-a-half-acre site with over 1,000 graves was not an easy task, particularly when only around 100-200 graves are actively maintained by the families of the deceased.

Families have now been invited individually to discuss the issue with the church.

He added: “We have had complaints in the past from people about graves which do break the regulations, by having photos or plastic flowers on them.

“We are trying to walk a tightrope and be sensitive to everybody.”

To read the Diocese’s regulations on churchyards, click here.