Many churches feel despondent about their ability to maintain the fabric of their church.
They have to pay their contribution to the Diocese, which has risen, and will rise at a greater pace as the cost of pensions is gradually transferred to the parishes instead of being met by the Church Commissioners.
Parishes must also meet the cost of running the church, which will include the cost of electricity, oil or gas (if there is central heating), the rector’s or vicar’s expenses (which will include his travel and telephone bill where they are related to parish work, and various costs of the rectory/vicarage), running repairs and maintenance (such as the cost of mowing the churchyard), the fees of the organist, wafers and wine for communion, hymn books, photocopying of service sheets and notices, cleaning out the gutters at least once a year, and insurance. If the church insures against the replacement of the church itself, the cost will be very considerable, but it will be necessary to effect such insurance once grant-aided work has begun. It can seem hard enough to meet these expenses even without thinking about the fabric of the church!
At the same time, congregations are smaller and smaller; the number of stipendiary priests is dropping; and the number of parishes grouped together is increasing. Often there are long interregna. It would be idle to pretend that the future will be easy.
But do not despair! Help is at hand. We are running a conference this April about how to apply successfully for grants for restoring the fabric of your church. We also intend to run a conference in the autumn about ways in which you can increase the giving in your parish to meet these daily costs of your church being a place of worship.
In the meantime, we would like to encourage you by the true story of St. Andrew's Church, Kirby Grindalythe. Three years ago, this church was facing redundancy. Redundancy would have led to a battle over whether the church should be demolished. Its vicar was struggling to look after thirteen parishes, and Kirby Grindalythe was one of five parishes lying along the Wolds valley which had been added later to that group. The vicar was about to go on sick leave, and the Wolds Valley group effectively had no priest caring for them. The church was the oldest in the valley, restored in the 1870s by G E Street (the architect of the Royal Courts of Justice in London), at the expense of Sir Tatton Sykes II, and needed a great deal of work. One of pinnacles had already fallen from the tower. The regular congregation was only four people, who were exhausted by their work in keeping the church going and paying their contributions to the Diocese over some thirty years. The village is small, in an inaccessible valley. It certainly does not have a lot of through traffic! There are no fewer than seven other religious affiliations and entities competing for funds both from the village and outside it.
Yet this church and village decided that they did not want the church to become redundant. They obtained a grant of about £175,000 from English Heritage, met the shortfall by grants from other sources and by raising some £6,000 themselves, in addition to meeting all their other costs and the greatly increased cost of insurance. A non-stipendiary minister came, and, after two years, he was appointed the priest-in-charge, by universal acclamation. A local stonemason did the work, and gave an apprenticeship to a lad from the village. He has proved a huge success, and does brilliantly in his work. The congregation has increased, and there are twice as many services as before, and a wider range of services than previously. The project has been so successful that they have now succeeded in obtaining a further grant from English Heritage for the second phase, for roughly the same amount.
Your church can have the same success! And we want to help you.