My view: Benefice Support Meetings
Each year Benefi ce Support Meetings take place which are an opportunity for benefices to meet with the Diocese and discuss their financial position.
It is a good opportunity to express problems which they are experiencing on the ground and look at long-term solutions.
Before starting as Parish Funding Support Officer I had the pleasure of helping with the Benefice Support Meetings with reference to paying parish share.
Although the actual payment of parish share has nothing to do with the role of Parish Funding Support Officer, there is a small overlap in that we can sometimes help with looking at ways to facilitate the benefice into helping pay their parish share.
For example, in some cases Geoff and I can help you apply for grants to build a toilet/kitchen to make your church more user friendly and therefore of more benefit to your local community.
It became apparent at a few of the meetings I attended that the Incumbent does not agree with TRIO, and also that some people still did not understand what TRIO meant.
Fortunately many do appreciate that the money goes towards paying their stipend, pensions, National Insurance, housing costs and training. I must admit that I do feel for the priest. I can imagine that when they joined the church they signed up to provide ministry, and not, quite frankly, the running of a small business!
It became quite apparent that the meetings were quite therapeutic for some of the benefices. It gave them the chance to come to Diocesan House and explain some of the problems that they were experiencing at ground level.
I got the sense that some benefices were under the misconception that the Diocese did not appreciate how much hard work was being put in each and every parish.
Sue Bunting, with whom I was partnered for the meetings, could not have explained more to them that this was not the case and emphasised how much the Diocese appreciated all the hard work and effort that they were all putting in. Sue also explained how the Diocese took on board the problems that they were experiencing.
It also gave the Diocese a chance to explain and clear up some misconceptions. A lack of a Diocesan bulk insurance policy was a reoccurring issue, but at the moment despite efforts on the part of the Diocese and the National Church there is not a short-term solution (see article on page 7).
From my point of view I did glean some ‘good practise’ ideas, which I hope to use in the course of my work. Parish magazines can earn good money for some benefices and also seemed to be a good method to spread the word of the church. Computer classes for the retired – although not earning money for the church – were integrating the church into the community, which I feel is the most important way forward.
And finally a continual theme was that the faithful few in each benefice are doing all the work. No surprise there! The Diocesan staff team are well aware that this is the case, and that is why they are so appreciative of all that is done in the parishes.
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