Thinking Anglicans

Chelmsford diocese seeks “financial resilience”

The Chelmsford Diocesan Synod recently considered plans put forward to “achieve financial resilience”. The papers are published on the diocesan website, and may well be of wider interest as other dioceses consider the same issues.

The overall plan is contained in this document: Towards Financial Resilience.

One aspect of that plan is to accelerate the reduction of stipendiary incumbent posts, so as to achieve in 2021 what was previously the target for 2025, i.e. from 275 (as at 31 March 2020) to 215 in the next 18 months. Surprisingly, 48.5 of these posts are already vacant. The detailed plan is described here: An approach to reducing stipendiary numbers.

To understand the background the Summarised Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2019 and the Parish Share and Budget 2021 Proposal may be helpful.

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Sam Jones
Sam Jones
27 days ago

It looks like the plan is to cut stipendiaries but there is no reference to closing church buildings. In other words they plan to shaft the priests by increasing their workload with no additional support.
 
When will the bishops have the guts to do a Beeching, close and sell off large numbers of buildings and operate a smaller number of viable churches?

Stanley Monkhouse
27 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

If parish clergy are to be culled, why not some of the archdeacons and diocesan staff, lay and ordained?

Kate
Kate
26 days ago

Very much agree.

Parish clergy should be the very last area to face cuts not the first. Theology and economics ought to be aligned on that point.

Parish ministers are the church’s sales force. With the exception of some rental and investment income, parish clergy are responsible for income generation. What sane organisation cuts that part of its workforce before cutting almost all posts which consume money without generating any?

Froghole
Froghole
27 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

Thank you. I think this is a useful point, and I did note on my tour of Essex that the amalgamations in some areas had become problematic. This was especially true of the area to the west of Colchester. My experience of massive amalgamations has been mixed; the show can be kept on the road, but the large units created are sometimes subject to diminishing returns. Whether this always weighs on the stipendiaries is moot, but I concede it probably does in many cases. Rather what matters is if there are others (clerical or lay) who are available to lead… Read more »

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
27 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Beeching isn’t the best analogy as many of the railway lines he closed were viable (or could have been viable with better management). That isn’t true of Anglican churches as you know from your extensive visits.   Your points about churches being national assets and funded by taxation in the past are correct but irrelevant as no government or secular body will take responsibility for church buildings at the best of times (and certainly not in the current environment).   All the evidence is that giving priests responsibility for more buildings simply guarantees decline. It is far better to concentrate… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
26 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

Many thanks. I am not certain that giving priests responsibility for more buildings necessarily guarantees decline. It rather depends on the priest. If, for instance you had been to the Castor benefice in the Soke under William Burke a few years ago you would have found a remarkably successful priest willing to take on an additional moribund parish outwith his territory (Water Newton which was indeed in a different diocese), which he sparked back to life. I have also encountered many ‘sub-optimal’ priests in relatively small benefices who have successfully wrecked the Church.   I think we go back to… Read more »

ACI
ACI
26 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

In the pastoral sector where we have lived in France there are 26 village churches, most but 5-10 minutes by car from one another (Essonne). As you know, due to the law of 1905 the communes take care of the physical maintenance. The sector designates the main churches for the main Sunday 11 service. The rest are on a rota, for 9.30. The clergy (there were 3, now two) celebrate at the main church at 11.00. Milly la Fôret and Maisse. They celebrate at 9.30 at one of the 24 on Sunday rota. Weekday services are for the most part… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
26 days ago
Reply to  ACI

Very many thanks! It’s fascinating to read about conditions in France. The majority of the livestreamed worship I have attended in lockdown has been from France. I have not only been very highly impressed by the quality of all the services I have watched, but also by the very adept way in which a number of dioceses have appealed for funds from the outset of the crisis and how much advance planning there has been for the deconfinement.   However, I should also mention that, whilst my local knowledge of the RCC in France is extremely patchy and thin, I… Read more »

ACI
ACI
26 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Our very close friend and colleague, Pere Paul-Marie Mercier (now of blessed memory) kept very busy with services and pastoral care. It was a pleasure to see him queuing at the boulangerie, or kidding with the Mayor (whose handy-man kept up the church and his modest lodgings). I think one goes into the priesthood for different reasons. They move you around like US Methodists do (I like and dislike that), you don’t get paid much, but people seem to understand your sacrifices and admire your training. At least where we were living. Saying that, our experience in much of France… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
26 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

It might be interesting to hear from some archdeacons about the trials and tribulations of trying to close churches. It is far from easy!

Froghole
Froghole
26 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Dr Butler: Yes – a notable instance of how difficult it can be was the experience of the archdeacon of Chichester in closing Heene (St Botolph’s) in West Sussex. The diocese was attempting to rationalise the stock in Worthing. Heene was an ancient chapelry (subsequently parochial) in the peculiar deanery of Pagham and Tarring: https://sussexparishchurches.org/church/worthing-st-botolph-heene/.   The first attempt to effect closure (in about 2011) went to the Mission, Pastoral & Church Property Committee; it was defeated. Undeterred, the diocese – with the archdeacon as front man – tried again in 2015 (the Committee being chaired by the then second… Read more »

Stuart
Stuart
26 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

Though £10k is cheap compared with the total cost of £50k direct costs of a stipendiary minister and £30k contribution to central costs that have to come from somewhere.   There probably isn’t an easy answer to this; to close churches is to withdraw from a community, and most of the low-hanging fruit (the over-dense building of Victorian times, say) has been picked. Some of the future is going to have to involve more non-stipendiary ministry, but in a sense that just means the minister paying- albeit in time-value not cash.   It’s trite but true that the church can… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
26 days ago
Reply to  Stuart

I wonder where non-stipendiaries of the future will come from. The pool of people now in their 50s, say, who were brought up knowing about church and the faith is drying up. People younger than that generally know nothing of what it’s about: some are actually afraid to step through the doors, in case they catch something I suppose; some are frankly hostile. Four or five generations now unchurched, and hardly anyone under about 50 knows the Our Father unless they’re of a church family or have been to fee paying schools. C of E schools don’t on the whole… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
26 days ago

Award ordinands, deacons or novice priests basic stipends and let them share vicarages rent free, serving across deaneries part-time while they continue to receive on-the-job training. Many young professionals live in house shares at the start of their careers, so this wouldn’t necessarily be an irregular arrangement. They may supplement with income from other jobs, but the attraction of rent-free accommodation is a significant carrot to dangle. And with a shortage of jobs elsewhere as a result of coronavirus, this could attract suitable candidates with a calling.

Charles Read
27 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

You don’t need to close churches. Keep worship, pastoral care and mission going with non-stipendiary clergy and Readers.

North End Anglican
North End Anglican
27 days ago
Reply to  Charles Read

In response to Charles Read’s comment, as someone who recently went through an ordination discernment process as a youngish (under 40) candidate for non-stipendiary ministry, I felt that I was viewed with some suspicion, as if I somehow lacked commitment in not discerning a calling to stipendiary ministry. The fact that my wife and I have a mortgage and bills and just about get by as a family financially didn’t seem to register. One cleric who interviewed me actually boasted of the secular salary which they had given up to go to theological college – it was twice the combined… Read more »

Charles Read
26 days ago

Sorry you have had that experience – which is sadly all too common. We do need a culture shift – I remember days when NSM was valued and promoted. Aged 26, at my ACCM (= BAP for younger readers) I was asked whether I had considered NSM. (Not possible at age 26 then.)

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
27 days ago
Reply to  Charles Read

Agreed if that is viable – but for many parishes with shrinking, ageing congregations it will not be. How low does USA need to go before you would close a parish?

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
26 days ago
Reply to  Charles Read

This can work for a few years, but then what happens when a bill for a few thousand pounds, or a few tens of thousands of pounds, comes in for important maintenance to the building, and the parish can’t afford it.   The current situation is unsustainable long term. Do we ignore it or acknowledge it? But it is only unsustainable if we refuse to close unviable ancient church buildings.   In my own dioceses what concerns me is not the risk of degradation of church buildings, but the risk of harm to parish officers. How damaging is it for… Read more »

Kate
Kate
26 days ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

Some ancient churches are perhaps unviable but others are only unviable because potential commercial uses have been ignored. For instance, some are next to CofE schools which have paid to build classrooms rather than rent space in the church. How ridiculous is that? The situation for each will vary but for many narrow-minded thinking is probably the biggest problem.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
26 days ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate, in the rural villages which I serve as a lay minister, then in each village there is a church and a village hall. The church tends to be cold in the winter, to have stepped access, to have no toilets, and basic catering facilities, if any. . The village hall next door has good car parking, good heating (a superb log fired hearth in one), good toilets including facilities for those with disabilities,and often a fully fitted kitchen. Potential commercial uses have not been ignored, the churches just can’t compete, whether hiring out to schools or for other commercial… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
26 days ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

And adding to my comment above, on further reflection. Rather than the cost of maintaining two buildings in the same village in competition, why not co-operate. I am thinking of the sort of dual use building like st Anne’s Soho, a large meeting room with a stage at one end, an altar and organ at the other, and toilets and a kitchen accessible for both uses.   So for non-church going villagers, “church” stops being that cold draughty building at the other end of the village that they never go into, but an activity that happens in a space they… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
26 days ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

Many thanks again. I think that ‘church’ is both a building *and* an activity, and I am wary of a distinction being made between the two concepts.   Sometimes the dual community/faith use can be a qualified success: examples such as Kneesall (Nottinghamshire), Colnbrook (Buckinghamshire) or Hadlow Down (Sussex) come to mind. However, there are other occasions when the siting of the building means that failure is more likely: Sibton (Suffolk) has struck me as an instance of this, although it’s possible I am being unfair in that case.   The leading humanist, Alice Roberts and broadcaster, has recently noted… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
25 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

I wonder if Alice Roberts knows the use of the building well. Whilst St Andrew’s is a small church St John’s is a huge building. Any but the largest group, religious or secular, would rattle around in it. Last time I visited, the religious end of the building, in the chancel, had an air of dusty neglect.   That’s not to say that church conversions cant work. The Salisbury Arts Centre is in a deconsecrated church building, situated conveniently next door to the Registry Office in Salisbury. And the Arts Centre has function rooms for hire.So when my husband David… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
26 days ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

I have to say that this is a very good point. A great many rural churches (and some urban ones) lack basic facilities. In the region of nucleated villages running down the spine of England and comprising much of the Midlands the parish church is often the focal point of the village. However in many other regions (Kent being a notable example where dispersed settlement is as much the norm as the exception) the parish church will often be at a distance from the main settlement. It is not plausible in much of the south-west, never mind Wales, to assume… Read more »

Kate
Kate
26 days ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

Every closed church advertises that the church is in decline, is no longer relevant. That is particularly true of churches in villages which tend to be very prominent.

On a strict p&l basis a church building might initially appear unprofitable but that is possibly because the accounting fails to include the positive advertising (if open) and the negative advertising (if closed). Close down all the ancient relics, as you wish, and you will simply accelerate the fall in worshippers across a diocese. What appears like a short term fix could be financially disastrous in the medium term.

Froghole
Froghole
26 days ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

Many thanks. I agree with much of this, as I have come across all too many parish officers who are very elderly and feel intense emotions about the effort involved in keeping the building going, with a good admixture of guilt about being the end of a long line.   I know of a few churches where the buildings have closed (or have been demolished) and the congregation meets in the hall or local school. Whilst this often works, and overhead is obviously reduced, I have found that these congregations usually (though not always) die out a little more quickly.… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
27 days ago

Many thanks for this. It would be interesting to know whether the economies discussed will come close to covering the likely shortfall in parish share subventions since March and the ensuing need to redeem loans made by the Commissioners. It is nonetheless heartening that there is no mention of closures, and it is greatly to the credit of Stephen Cottrell that he did not resume the extensive disposal programmes effected by two of his recent predecessors, bishops Trillo and Waine (which tended to hit the south of the county the hardest). The two most conspicuous casualties (for me) were Sutton… Read more »

Father David
26 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Interesting to read that Froghole mentions Kelvedon – as I was the first vicar of the United Benefice of Kelvedon and Feering from 2003 to 2013. Prior to my appointment David Thornton was Vicar of Kelvedon and Aubrey Moody was Vicar of Feering. As I recall the pattern of worship was 8.00 am BCP Communion at Kelvedon 9.00 am Holy Communion at Feering 10.30 am Sung Eucharist at Kelvedon 6.00 pm BCP Evensong at Feering In addition each parish had it’s own C of E Primary School. Since I moved on I believe that the United Benefice is now part… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
26 days ago
Reply to  Father David

Many thanks, Fr. David. Kelvedon and Feering are still distinct, as far as I am aware, and the latter was getting some engagement with younger people via a monthly messy service.   However, if you go just the other side of the A12 you have a sprawling benefice of Thurstable & Winstree. It comprises Tiptree (with Tolleshunt Knights, where the redundant church is used occasionally by the local Greek Orthodox monastery and was packed when I went there at Christmas), Great Braxted, Copthorpe, Easthorpe (now seldom used – it was down to a monthly evensong when I went), Messing, Inworth,… Read more »

Father David
26 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Almost nearing the size of the South Ormsby set up which I believe consisted of 16 parishes in the Lincolnshire Wolds. When we lived in Lincoln we often used to attend the Rev’d Peter Fluck’s church of St. Nicholas, Newport. I was quite surprised when he took on the South Ormsby Group. They did make a television programme about his time in the Wolds called something like “A Country Parson”. He eventually became Vicar of Boston Stump in succession to Canon Trevor Collins.

Froghole
Froghole
26 days ago
Reply to  Father David

Fr. David. I’m so glad you mentioned Mr Fluck as I have a dim recollection of seeing that programme about 30 years ago and haven’t been able to find any reference to it. I recall him driving around in what I think might have been a C5 to attend services, often with a congregation of one or two.   As you may know, the South Ormsby group (currently 8 units) was the brainchild of the late Arthur Smith (https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=mXgOsjYe44kC&pg=PA60&lpg=PA60&dq=archdeacon+smith+south+ormsby&source=bl&ots=EA_M1wMwtH&sig=ACfU3U3yQZmikBD2ytUjxpPSuPYYEOnx5g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwif2dCegfXpAhUpShUIHcgbDMYQ6AEwAnoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=archdeacon%20smith%20south%20ormsby&f=false). I have only been able to identify service times in South Ormsby by looking on [some] notice boards. Information provided by… Read more »

Father David
25 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

My word Froghole, you don’t half get around! I’m impressed by your comprehensive oversight of the Church of England! Sadly, parts of the Church in Lincolnshire seem to be in dire straights. Since the time in the late 1970s when I was a curate at Boston Stump there appears to have been a severe decline, especially in rural parts of Lindsey, Kestevan and Holland. The reversal of this sad decline isn’t helped by the continuing suspension of the current Bishop of Lincoln who can, temporarily, no longer offer leadership and pastoral care to the diocese of The saintly Bishop Edward… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
25 days ago
Reply to  Father David

A survey worthy of Pevsner, indeed! I do hope our amphibious friend will emerge from his lair one day to publish his findings, a most significant contribution.

North End Anglican
North End Anglican
25 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

In my own small way, I can vouch for Father David’s sad comment above. Last summer, my wife and I attended our friends’ civil wedding in that part of Lincolnshire, and the next day (being Sunday), we headed to the parish church for worship. We’re both hardened churchgoers, and neither of us had seen anything like it. The vicar read their parts of the service in Common Worship modern language, and a group of parishioners (led by a churchwarden) responded in traditional language throughout. At the end of the service, the vicar went into the vestry and we didn’t see… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
26 days ago

I’m interested when people use the word Anglican when I more naturally use Church of England ( born 1949). I think this began happening about 30 or so years ago. I suppose we are increasingly faced with the decision “Do we remain the Church of England “a church presence in every community”.”or settle for being “the Anglican denomination in England”? Given our history that will be a big shift which probably has implications greater than we might imagine.

T Pott
T Pott
25 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

In the middle ages endowments were set up to maintain parish churches and pay decent stipends. Tithes, a form of rent rather than taxation, and other fees were then, in many cases, appropriated and used instead to support monasteries. Monasteries were essentially groups of people who made vows, and were seen as super-religious compared to the general populace. They would have to appoint a vicar but could pay him as little as they could get away with. Now it happens again. The last C of E church in Bacup is now closed and Bacup is in a united benefice with… Read more »

David Keen
David Keen
26 days ago

A question for those who know the Diocese better than I – what was the reduction in Diocesan staffing that the review speaks of? Here in Bath and Wells we have seen staffing numbers in parishes and at the centre going in opposite directions for some years.

Andrew
Andrew
26 days ago

Please don’t unleash Beeching on the Church!    MBAs at diocesan HQs might be tempted into such an approach. Retail chains, accountable to shareholders, keep the profitable shops going and axe the rest. If I can’t buy my shirts in M&S I can always go to Debenhams. But that doesn’t really work for the C of E, where the beneficiaries are worshippers/parishioners. Can you imagine the hue and cry?    The finances of dioceses and PCCs are independent of each other; they prepare their own financial statements with separate balance sheets. A parish could, if it chose to, ring-fence its reserves… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
24 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

P.S.
 
In the grand review about to be conducted by Eboracum novus, a good starting point would be to strip out all superfluous layers of middle management and sinecures, and transfer the savings en bloc to the National Churches Trust to save our precious heritage.

Andrew
Andrew
23 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

P.P.S.
 
novum archiepiscopum Eboracensem

Charles Clapham
26 days ago

Chelmsford Diocese appears to have four bishops and seven archdeacons, which seems pretty high for a diocese with 200-something stipendaries. Have I read this correctly? Anyone know why?

Brenda
Brenda
25 days ago

All on super enhanced stipends and with similarly boosted pensions backdated to the day they were ordained deacon! The Leeds diocese now has more senior clergy than when the three dioceses were amalgamated. I’m sure that there are many more examples. I’m sure parishes and parish clergy might be a bit more amenable to these swingeing cutbacks if the axe were falling equally.

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
25 days ago
Reply to  Brenda

Good point re Leeds. It would be good to see a detailed analysis of the financial implications of the merger. As you say, the number of senior clergy has not been reduced, but are there savings from merging the diocesan offices?

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
26 days ago

I hope they don’t do a Robert Maxwell and raid the Clergy Pension Scheme to try and prop it all up. I heard that the St. Albans diocese is furloughing curates – it’s all rather bleak.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
25 days ago

PS. In other news …. I’m told that Manchester diocese is talking about creating super Area Deans or Assistant Archdeacons. In business an organisation in difficulties sheds middle management, it doesn’t add to their ranks. I also heard that Manchester are planning on huge reductions in stipendiary clergy and only appointing from within. The endless mission initiatives throughout the CofE have clearly not worked.

Alan Davies
Alan Davies
24 days ago

And not just St Albans, Fr Dean. When a well-endowed diocese like Winchester furloughs all its curates (with the same ham-fisted lack of bedside manner that characterised the Channel Islands debacle) you know things are going pear-shaped.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
25 days ago

Apparently Chelmsford are advertising for a Change Manager – couldn’t one of the seven archdeacons take on that role?

Stanley Monkhouse
24 days ago

Dean, thank you for your observations and information from Chelmsford, St Albans and Manchester. Other dioceses are up to similar tricks, on so many levels immoral and unchristian. There seems no way of holding to account the decision making that goes on in C of E dioceses. The nearest things to company AGMs are diocesan synods where fawning is the order of the day, with mild inconsequential grumbling whispered behind forced smiles.   But it really doesn’t matter. Hardy anybody in the country gives a damn about the C of E or its hierarchs—even churchgoers ignore bishops in my experience,… Read more »

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