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The Parish Church of

St Matthew Oxhey

 Fr David Shepherd   Vicar

Fr David Shepherd

01923 241420

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GOD’S LOVE IS FREE:  GOD’S WORK COSTS MONEY!

 

A briefing on church finances

 

Overview

 

· The Church of England is an ‘established’ church, a national institution.  But that does not mean that it receives funding from the State.  It doesn’t.

· The ministry of the Church of England is carried out in parishes.  Every part of the country is in a parish.  In recent years many parishes have been combined to save money – a rural vicar may serve several churches.

· The parish is where most of the Church’s work is done and so where most of its resources are consumed.  And it’s where most of its money must be raised.

· The bulk of the Church’s expenditure is administered in the dioceses.  They maintain the houses parish priests live in and they train and pay the clergy.  They offer modest support activities to the local ministry, but carry out few activities directly.   The dioceses have minimal direct income.

· So the money to pay for this has to come from the parishes.  The mechanism for this is the parish share, a levy reflecting each parish’s use of resources and its ability to pay.  (Last century dioceses also used to receive a contribution from central funds, but these have been phased out, and shares have risen by more than inflation as a result.)

· The Church Commissioners and the Central Board of Finance manage the Church’s considerable historic investment resources.  Nowadays these are virtually fully committed to financing clergy pensions.  Contributions are sought from the dioceses to finance central activities like international relations; the General Synod; the archbishop’s offices.

 

What does this mean for a parish?

 

· The parish has to raise all the money to pay its share and cover its local costs which include maintaining its buildings, grounds and equipment; heating and lighting; consumables for administration and worship; cleaning; paying any lay staff it employs; and contributing to charity and mission.

· A parish may have modest income from past investments – the result of former members’ generosity.  But this tends to be a fixed or declining amount.

· In practice the only way a parish can meet these outgoings is through the generosity of donations from its current congregation.  Gifts in kind of labour and service can contribute to reducing the local costs but the parish share cannot be met in this way.

· The church building was paid for by the donations of past members.  Keeping it in good condition falls to today’s members!

 

What does this mean for personal giving?

 

· The Church is the people of God, and the parish congregation is the people of God in that place.  It isn’t a club, so there isn’t a committee setting levels of subscriptions.  All are welcome to its services, so there’s no admission charge.

· Giving for Anglicans is understood to be a strictly personal matter.  It is a way of recognising and responding to the love of God (itself beyond price), by contributing to the continuity of His work in our own time and place.

 

· It would be sensible to approach it with a degree of realism about today’s cost of living.  Those old enough to remember the pre-decimal days before the big inflation of the 1970s and 1980s may recall bringing their old penny to Sunday School, and putting coins in the collection.   Doing that today might be seen as offering God our loose change!

· As a Christian one might see the Church as part of the infrastructure of one’s life.  Paying for it might be viewed in the same way as paying for other infrastructure things like energy, communication and local services.

· Some while ago the Church of England did actually venture to suggest a recommended level of giving.  It was never intended to be a rule, but it may be helpful to know about it.  If it was generally adopted by all congregations today it is thought that the Church’s financial problems would be solved!

· That guidance was to give about 5% of after tax income to the Church.  It was based on the biblical principle of the tithe (or tenth), but leaving room for regular giving to other charitable purposes.

· Giving to God’s work in gratitude for what we have received is an act of commitment to Him.  It would reinforce this if it is also a commitment in the other sense of being a regular and reliable act.  The costs must be met weekly and monthly, and it is a great help if the income comes in the same way.

· The Church can benefit from tax relief on personal donations by taxpayers and it is recommended that personal giving be gift-aided where circumstances permit.

· Like all organisations the Church has one-off costs as well as regular costs.  These are sometimes raised by special appeals, which have to be on top of regular giving.  But another way of giving the Church one-off income is to leave it a bequest in ones will – a form of deferred giving.

 

Final thoughts

 

· The local ‘need’ for money can be found by looking at parish accounts and asking the Treasurer.  But this is the wrong way round.  Giving to the Lord’s work is open ended.  If we are collectively so generous that all our local expenses and our share are met we have only reached the first base.  By going beyond that we would be able to support other churches and other mission activities…

 

· God’s love was shown us through the sacrifice of His only Son.  Maybe God’s work today calls for some sacrifice from us in showing our love of Him?