Dear Friends …
I can probably count on one hand (if that!) the number of times I’ve given a congregation the hard-sell stump speech about money. Money has always been to me a means to an end — everyone wants enough of it for it to be useful, of course — but not an end in itself. Yet, as the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “to everything there is a season”, and the moment arrives when — unseemly and un- British as it may be — I’m going to need to speak plainly about our collective finances for the sake of good stewardship and the financial health of St. John’s Church.
The ongoing pandemic has, of course, been hard on both individuals and institutions, and the Church has not been exempted from that. The bottom line is that — even with the very generous 40% reduction that the Diocese has seen fit to give us on our parish share — our treasurer, Hugh, advises me that our budget is some £10,000 in deficit, and that circumstances have forced us to eat heavily into our emergency reserves. Should the pandemic last another year, we could reasonably expect that our reserves would be entirely depleted.
The reasons for this state of play are simple enough: with all churches having shut their doors from March to July — and still under heavily restricted opening rules — our bills have continued coming in, whilst our normal income streams have dried up. It is not simply the Sunday collections that disappeared for five months, but we have lost (and are continuing to lose) the funeral fees we would normally receive (£100 per service); wedding fees (£245 per service); on-the-plate donations from these events; fundraisers; grant monies; income from high-attendance special seasonal services, the card stall, and (forthcoming) the Christmas Fayre.
It may be — if we’re lucky — that some of these streams will be made up next year. Most of our 2020 weddings, for example, have been re-booked for the summer of 2021. But some of these losses will simply be missed opportunities, and we cannot at this stage be sure how strong some of our future income streams will be. With five months and counting of graveside and crematorium funeral services change our future prospects? Will social distancing and limited numbers of guests continue to be a factor for the medium term? At this stage, we just don’t know.
And so it is that, on behalf of the wardens, the treasurer, the PCC, and the parish at large, I seek your help and your generosity. On the 25th of October, we will celebrate the Harvest Festival (somewhat belatedly) as a Gift Day for Maindee Parish. We are hoping that you may see your way clear to giving extra on that day in order to shore up our reserves before we find ourselves in genuine financial hardship. £10,000 is a lot of money to make up, and we will need every penny that we can find.
To be absolutely clear: we do not wish for anyone to put himself or herself in financial hardship for the sake of a fundraising drive. I am very aware that, in the current climate, there may be many who have struggled to make ends meet for a variety of reasons. Let no one feel ashamed or under pressure to contribute more than they can. Sacrificial giving is one thing; giving to the point of suffering is perhaps another, and I do not wish the latter for you.
But, please, I ask you to consider prayerfully how much you can afford and be generous. Further, I ask you, too, if you might not consider upping your regular giving, even if only by a pound or two. With as many people as we have coming to church, the extra pennies can and will add up into something significant. (Hugh can give you better figures on that than I can, but I do know he’s done the sums!) You might also consider using the Church in Wales Gift Direct scheme for your future giving, which ensures a regular income for us (even with pandemic closures) in a relatively pain-free, automated way for you. Again, Hugh can give you the details.
Thank you all for listening, and thank you all for the support you give, not just in terms of keeping the Church afloat financially — but for all the hard work you put in, the faithfulness of your worship (including online!), the warmth of your welcome, and love you give one another and me.