Supporting our life together despite the financial impact of COVID-19

Author: The Rt Revd Graham Usher

Published on: 26 June 2020

I want to begin by thanking so many of you – parishioners, PCC members, churchwardens, lay ministers, clergy and others – for the incredible way in which you are continuing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect it is having on our local communities.

So much has been stripped away from us, yet you are truly living out Jesus’ call to love your neighbours. I have heard so many good news stories, not least about how our church communities are caring for those who need to self-isolate, those who have lost work and livelihoods, and those for whom the last few months have been a serious challenge to their mental wellbeing or sense of safety.

I have taken part in imaginative online worship and am in awe of those who have learnt so many new skills and are reaching out to their communities with Christ’s message of hope.

Many clergy are telling me that more people are attending online worship, whether live-streamed or pre-recorded messages, than attended church physically. Perhaps we are reaching people who, through ill health, age or infirmity have had to ‘self-isolate’ for years. Some good things are coming out of this. Thank you for all that you are doing.

Sustaining generous giving and Parish Share

The challenges before us as a nation and world are immense. At a diocesan level I have a deep concern about our ongoing income that funds the local ministry of the Church. The effect of the pandemic on Parish Share is being keenly felt, with a number of parishes reducing bank transfers, cheque payments, direct debits and standing orders to the diocese.

  • Parish Share income to the end of May had reduced by over £250,000 compared with the same period in 2019.
  • Parochial fee income from marriages and funerals has also naturally reduced or stopped. Rental income from the small number of ‘vacant’ properties has reduced, and dividend income from investments is reducing given the impact of the lockdown on industry. Our monthly out-goings amount to £890,000, of which the largest expenditure is funding our frontline clergy. With Parish Share contributions reducing cash flow is a very significant concern.
  • We have put in place significant cost savings, including furloughing 50% of the staff team at various times over these past few months, to help us ride out this storm.
  • The majority of clergy housing quinquennials, interim repairs, major repairs and boiler replacements have all been put on hold, but council tax, water rates and buildings insurance continue.
  • We are urgently exploring what financial support the national church can provide at this time of need. I have also asked Bishop Alan to lead a review about our expenditure and priorities so that we can plan how to sustainably fund the mission of God’s Church in Norfolk and Waveney in the coming years.

Thank you to all of you who have sustained your giving and see parish share as a priority. Where parish share comes in our PCC’s budget priorities is, to me, a key indicator of the value we place on the living, serving ministry of the church. When I was a parish priest in one of this country’s lowest economic communities parish share was always at the top of the list. That community was often described as ‘deprived’, but they had a rich understanding of why supporting ministry was important and worked hard.

I ask that PCCs do all they can to encourage generous giving by direct debit and standing order, and in turn continue to contribute towards parish share as much as they are able, to continue to support the ongoing ministry of your parish and help us to sustain the vital frontline work of our clergy. Thank you.

This edition of PCC News contains important information about how you can develop online donations, set up standing orders and more.

“The Church is the Church only when it exists for others” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Some of our poorest communities are being hit very hard at this time and being brothers and sisters in Christ means that we share our resources. The church of Acts certainly lived this out: All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

What might our life together be like if PCCs who had more resources shared generously with those that had less? My prayer is that this time can be one where we inhabit lives of generous shared thanksgiving so that more people become followers of Jesus Christ.

In these strange times we will continue to learn what it means to be called upon to proclaim afresh the Gospel in each generation and, whilst the Gospel message is unchanging, how we proclaim God’s love in Jesus in this generation will need us to reimagine our future as well as responding to the immediate. That can be daunting, yet ours is a task to live Pentecost lives, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to turn from being hidden away from any sense of fear, so as to tell the greatest story ever told of hope and love to others.

Thank you for your part in that. With every blessing.

+Graham Norvic

The author...

The Rt Revd Graham Usher

Bishop of Norwich

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