A minister historically lived a very modest lifestyle, which the Church supported by providing small plots of ground for him to graze a horse or a cow. Over time the need for these plots, known as glebe land, has diminished and now they often act as play parks, sports pitches, community spaces and woodland.
English glebe land was historically owned by the minister but in 1976 the rules changed and the ownership transferred to the Diocesan Board of Finance (DBF). These days glebe land consists of agricultural, commercial and residential land and property, and can also include recreational land.The income from glebe land, most commonly rental income or proceeds from sale, is reinvested so as to provide continuous income and a good return to the Diocesan Stipend Fund.
Because of its original purpose, glebe land is usually situated within a settlement or close on the outskirts of the settlement, with a high chance of it being zoned for development, which can make the land very valuable. Disposal of these sites is often encouraged to allow the proceeds of a sale to be invested.
North of the border, the Church of Scotland General Trustees are the property-holding corporation for the Church of Scotland and hold glebes and church buildings for the benefit of the congregations. The funds raised help congregations and communities meet their parish ministry costs including the provision of services such as weddings, baptisms, blessings and funerals.
Across the UK as a whole, those parcels of land which have not been adapted for community or commercial use are often let on agricultural tenancies or grazing agreements to neighbouring farms. The land provides an income stream in the form of rent but this is often very low and if the land is not providing a significant benefit then the option to sell the land provides an opportunity for some capital income.