Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The 5th February seems a long time ago now when I was installed as your Priest-in-Charge at All Saints’ Church. I was only ‘in post’ for thirty-five days before we entered ‘lockdown’ and most of my ministry so far has been from indoors. Although I am very conscious that I have not really been able to get to know many of you yet because of our isolation, I do hope that those of you who have access to Facebook have been able to relate to my prayers and reflections that I have posted. For those who do not have social media I do apologise and hope that with the re-introduction of our Parish Magazine we will be able to engage, enlighten and communicate with you more fully once again. I believe that Christian ministry is a partnership and I encourage all to offer any thoughts, prayers, poems, photographs, puzzles and recipes for our magazine. By sharing, our relationships deepen and our common life flourishes as a Christian community.
I will always remember the words of Bishop Rose during her sermon back in February when she introduced the analogy of our mission as a train journey, and how we all need to get on board so that we can make God’s message and love known to others locally. Her comments are now more relevant to us than ever as we grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic and discern what the future may hold for the church not only here in Birchington, but across the whole Church of England.
You may have read in the newspapers in late May that the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, the incoming Archbishop of York, has been appointed to chair a Vision and Strategy Committee which will consider the shape of the Church of England in years to come; it looks as though part of this review will consider how many buildings the church needs for the future and the organisational structures and clerical and non-clerical staff required to support the Church of England. Over the last ten weeks, churches have adapted and have offered worship on Zoom, You Tube and Facebook, and I anticipate that the Church review will consider how we continue to use social media alongside our more ‘traditional’ ways of worship in church. I would encourage that we pray for this work as it begins and how it will shape our future.
Our mission too will be shaped by the resources that we have available, and over the last few weeks during ‘lockdown’, despite our wise stewardship, our financial situation is challenged. Our income levels are stretched because our obligations are many. We have many financial liabilities as a church not only towards the upkeep of our church buildings, paying bills, but also contributing financially towards our common life as part of the family of the Diocese of Canterbury. We have an obligation to pay our Parish Share which not only supports many Diocesan functions, of which we are beneficiaries, but also contributes towards the cost of training Curates, Readers and Authorised Lay Ministers. I do not know if you are aware, but it takes seven years to train as a Priest and can cost up to £250,000.
The PCC Standing Committee has been reviewing our financial position. We would ask that if you have any envelopes that need collection that you inform either Sara, Loraine or myself so that we can arrange to collect from you. Also, if you purchase shopping on-line there is a website called easyfundraising.org.uk, which you may wish to join, that raises money for the church from each internet transaction from retailers included as part of its network. We have also applied for a JustGiving facility which, once approved, will be included as part of our webpage so that people may make donations opportunistically if they wish when viewing us on-line. I am not struck on writing about financial situations and appealing for funds, but we are in unprecedented territory, and our churches and church halls have been closed for nearly three months. Despite our best intentions we could not have anticipated the financial effects of Covid-19 upon this Parish, but the Standing Committee and I have a duty to inform you that we are entering into challenging times and any support, no matter how small, you may be able to give to help support our journey of mission together will be gratefully received.
With every blessing,