The Church of England in the Diocese of Southwark needs to raise roughly £20 million each year to finance its mission and ministry. The vast majority of that money is raised by the generous giving of the members of the 350 churches that form this part of the family of the Church of England. Of that large amount of money, the lion’s share is collected to pay, house, train and support the clergy who serve its parishes.
Because South London and East Surrey is such a diverse part of the country, it would be grossly unfair for every church – large or small, rich or poor – to pay an equal amount. Richmond, Bermondsey and Redhill are each very different places. So, for many years now, Southwark has collected a Fair Share from each parish, based on a confidential income survey of each congregation.
In 2013-4, I chaired a review of the Fairer Shares system which, despite 25 years of success, was looking tired. We recommended to the diocese a new system based on asking each parish to be generous, rather than presenting each church with what looked like a bill to be paid. The new scheme, known as the Parish Support Fund, has begun to run this year, with each church being asked to pledge an amount of money as its gift to the wider Diocese, based on the biblical principles of proportionality (larger & richer churches supporting smaller and poorer ones), informed generosity and the expectation that each church should aspire to fund itself over time. Each church has been asked to pledge an amount towards funding the work of the diocese (mostly through its parochial clergy) in 2016.
Because St Mary’s is a church of above average size and in an area where people tend to earn larger salaries, under the old Fairer Shares system St Mary’s has been a net contributor; on the whole we have paid for our own Vicar plus a significant contribution towards another parish’s Vicar. In recent years, that has been somewhere between £100,000 and £115,000 a year. For various reasons in 2015 our Fairer Shares assessment dropped to about £90,000.
The Church Council met a few weeks ago to decide its pledge under the new Parish Support Fund. It agreed to pledge 2% more than last year, some £91,800. There was widespread support for the new way of doing things on the PCC, which it recognises places more responsibility on the church to decide and own the amount it gives in this way. The PCC believed that it was right to respond positively to the Diocese’s request to cover the increased costs of 2%, but no more at this stage. It is hopeful that the Church will be able to be more generous in the years to come, especially if the Moorings Scheme can be brought to a successful conclusion in the coming year or two. The PCC also felt that it needed to bring its own costs under greater discipline to reduce the year on year deficits that have been happening in recent years. Many of you will know that the Mission Action Plan 2015-20 has a strategy to do that.
If you want to find out more about the Parish Support Fund, there is an excellent short video on the diocesan website (http://southwark.anglican.org/what/Parish-Support-Fund). The PCC has asked me to ensure that we show the video in a sermon in the coming months, perhaps when we run our own Everyone Campaign later in the autumn.
Canon Simon Butler