We want to address feelings from some church members of sinking under the burden of buildings, finance and bureaucracy.

“Give ear to my words, O Lord, give heed to my sighing.”  Psalm 5.2

March 2019 update from the Listen stream:

The LISTEN stream is led by the Diocesan Secretary and the Archdeacon of Norfolk.  Its focus is on ensuring the Diocese takes seriously the feelings, some churches have reported, of sinking under the burden of buildings, finance and bureaucracy and how we streamline processes, remove paperwork and assist in making buildings more mission focused.

So far we have:

Identified and approached the architect Nigel Walter, who specialises in change to historic churches to lead an interactive presentation, which had emphasis on it being a mission project which happens to involve a building.

The original two workshops planned quickly grew into four, held at Old Hunstanton, Filby, Hethersett and Blakeney.  These churches were chosen due to their location and examples of projects already undertaken.

All were well supported and extremely well received. A great many people stated how interesting, inspiring yet accessible the presentations had been and that it had given them tangible food for thought regarding the inherent possibilities of adapting their own churches. There are plans for a further workshop in May at Watton.

Nigel is currently working with us at the possibility of building on these workshops further for parishes that have identified projects and who are ready to move them forward.

The Listen stream would like to extend its thanks to the incumbents and churchwardens, of the churches involved, for their warm welcome and hospitality extended.

A new maintenance system created by the National Churches Trust is being trialed at one of our parishes currently.  This looks to be a promising initiative and we will report the results once the trial is over.

A contractors checklist for fabric officers is now available on our website under ‘Church Buildings’.  The checklist details what needs to be considered/checked when engaging contractors.  We also provide the contact details of our contractors.

Funding Workshops, which included legacies and bid writing, have been initiated by our Parish Funding Support Officer, at Norwich and Swaffham. Both were well attended from across the whole Diocese.  It was apparent more of these sessions are required, especially focusing on PCC members.  We are therefore organising more Parish Resources workshops for the autumn of this year and will look to include GDPR, PCC constitutions, funding, finance, Mission Strategy and health and safety responsibilities.

Two recruiting days for Church Building Ambassadors, who will provide training and support for parishes in the best use of their buildings and how to apply for grants, have taken place.  This produced a further 25 volunteers.  Details of this service can be found on our website.  It is pleasing to note that a number of enquires asking for help have been received already.

Currently we are working on:

A joint venture with Historic England, which has created a new role of Heritage Support Officer with a remit which will include:-

  • To support the long-term sustainable future of our historic buildings of worship
  • To help parishes identify sources of funding for local projects and provide support in applying for grants
  • To improve public access to, and understanding of, our churches
  • To signpost good practice procedures for maintenance, conservation, and accessibility
  • To support Parochial Church Councils in their stewardship process

The officer will work closely with both the Care of Churches office and the Parish Funding Support Officer. It is being part funded by Historic England.  One of the more important roles will be to support those churches in smaller communities with items such as funding applications and/or maintenance issues. This role will work alongside the Church Building Ambassadors.

Work has already begun on the rationalisation of the number of Boards and Committees we have.  The Mission and Pastoral Committee is now part of Bishop’s Council and the Property Committee is now part of the Norwich Diocesan Board of Finance Executive.  The Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986 is currently out for consultation.  It is looking to remove/reduce burdens of a procedural nature when a vacancy has or is about to occur on PCCs.

A version of Know your Church, Know your Neighbourhood (KYCKYN), a facilitated process to help churches think about themselves in relation to the local community they seek to serve, is being developed for use in the diocese. Attention will be given to providing a smaller version more suitable for our rural parishes.  Support will be given for training/assistance.  This would run in tandem with our Committed to Growth.

For the future, in addition to workshops already mentioned, we are looking at:

Resources incorporating the Mission Strategy branding.  Focus will be on seasonal/timely ideas that could be offered, allowing congregations to become more engaged with the Mission Strategy.  This is part of the lead we have undertaken in the redesign and development of the Diocesan website to enable parishes to find the resources/help they need more easily.

Feedback from the Team Rectors’ Consultation is now being looked at.  There were a number of suggestions/requests which we hope to update you with at a future date.

About the Listen stream

The stream is led by the Diocesan Secretary, assisted by the Archdeacon of Norfolk and other designated officers.  The aims are to:

  • offer training to those caring for their buildings and support with administration, finance and governance
  • gift architect’s time to parishes to look specifically at building needs in relation to mission and encourage the sharing of expertise
  • improve processes and simplify or reduce the amount of information gathering
  • increase the capacity of the Parish Funding Support Officers
  • continue to look at research identifying key factors in encouraging growth.