It’s a challenge but it’s not impossible!
We are a group of seven parishes with seven grade one medieval church buildings in west Norfolk.
We have a total population of 2,940 people and within the benefice there are two church schools federated with a neighbouring church school in an adjacent benefice. We have been together as a group of parishes since 1997 under my guidance with Associate Priest, Fr Richard Howells, a Self- Suppporting Minister.
For at least the last seven years we have managed to pay 100% of our Parish Share representing the full cost of having a full-time stipendiary parish priest. In the early years of TRiO this meant we were contributing more than we were required to in order to subsidise other benefices. Alongside this achievement each of our church buildings is insured for 100% cover and we have carried out major roofing repairs in four of them.
How do we do it? It begins in the early autumn when the churchwardens meet to discuss the allocation of the Share across the individual parishes. There is a recognition that, first of all, the three parishes that only have 25 people in each will be limited in their ability to contribute. Secondly, this is a mutual responsibility if we want to have the services of a full-time priest. Thirdly, we review progress towards the payment of the Share as the year progresses and if a parish needs assistance to meet its commitment then the Group as a whole considers what adjustment can be offered so that the total sum is met. The churchwardens’ comment; “Benefice/Parish Share is seen as a priority in the budget for our parishes, and not as the last item.”
Central to this positive approach is the cheerfulness and good humour with which the wardens meet to do the annual allocation. The other central pivot in our strategy is our Annual Gift Day which involves me addressing the communities via our monthly Nar Valley News Magazine in October into which is inserted a specially printed Gift Day envelope which every parishioner is invited to return on the morning of the second Saturday in October with their gift. In 2020 the total received is £15,434.30 of which £2,670.50 is tax reclaimed from the Exchequer. Afterwards each contributor is personally thanked.
With a spirit of co-operation and prayer and generosity of giving week by week it can be done! A treasurer commented; “a very generous response – in no small part due to the respect and affection in which the Rector is held throughout the benefice after many years of faithful ministry.”
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