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Remembering Archbishop Fisher; and the matter of fees

28 September 2012


From the Revd Henry Boardman

Sir, - I was somewhat surprised to read, in the extract of the new book about Geoffrey Fisher ( Features, 14 September), a quotation from The Church of England Newspaper of 1960 that "a new Church of England is being born . . . a Church with money enough and to spare."

During Fisher's archiepiscopate (1945-61), it was a common criticism of the C of E that it was a very wealthy organisation, with its supposed millions. But that was far from the truth - as was borne out by events then and later.

My first incumbency coincided with that time. I remember receiving two very large forms. One concerned the personnel of the parish: clergy, churchwardens, sidesmen, PCC, choirs and their members, bell-ringers, Sunday-school teachers and their pupils, church-school numbers, etc. The other was about financial matters: clergy income and fees, Easter and Whitsun Offerings, church-plate collections, envelope-scheme income, stewardship income, income from special events, and so on.

Initially, these forms demanded a good deal of research to unearth all the information required, which was followed by an annual updating because of changes in the parish.

I remember one incumbent's letter in the Church Times, in which he told how, in answer to the question about the number of bell-ringers, he recorded, I think, nine. The next year, he added a zero, and entered 90. He did the same thing again the next year to make 900. He received no response from the authorities, and questioned the value of the information being gathered.

As time unfolded, the truth of the financial basis of the C of E became only too clear. While there might seem good sense in the appropriation by diocesan boards of finance of Easter and Whitsun Offerings and all clergy fees, to balance their books, there have been other consequences. When congregations found that their giving to the Easter Offering no longer benefited their vicar, they just stopped giving. The end result was that no one gained. Not only was money lost to the Church, but a valuable means of feedback to the vicar, and of showing appreciation of his effort, was lost as well.

Canon Goodchild's letter ( 17 August) points to one aspect of the effect of the loss of fees. A funeral service is perhaps one that stressed parish clergy can feel justified in passing to a substitute if possible. This ignores the failure of continuing pastoral care and a missed opportunity for mission on the ground, but it also points up the consequences of what at first sight may seem obvious solutions to problems higher up the chain.

So much for Dr Fisher's contention on his retirement that he had left the C of E in good shape.

Woodside, Burtonwood Road, Great Sankey, Warrington
Cheshire WA5 3AN


From the Revd Christopher Wayte

Sir, - As an (ancient) priest in Canterbury diocese who was ordained by Archbishop Fisher, I was interested to read your article.

My memories include being interviewed by him before being accepted for ordination as a curate in the diocese, when he was frequently interrupted by his chaplain announcing Members of Parliament, etc., who were due to see him; but he was determined to continue with me until he had determined my suitability.

During our ordination retreat, he regaled us with the story of how a brother bishop asked him to help persuade an elderly vicar to retire. He told us that he wrote a glowing letter to the vicar, thanking him for his long and worthy ministry, and suggesting that it was time for him to think of himself, and take a well-earned retirement. In reply, the Archbishop received the following letter: "Your Grace, When I was inducted to this living 35 years ago, I was not given to understand it was a purely temporary appointment." Deflation of an archbishop!

He said that he was not allowed to have his letters posted until his chaplains, whom he referred to as his dragons, had vetted them.

As an honorary chaplain in Canterbury Cathedral, I like to stand before his memorial in one of the side chapels, which remembers his presidency of the World Council of Churches, and his visit to the Pope after centuries of separation, and thank God for his life and ministry.

9 St John's Road, Hythe CT21 4BE


From Dr Anne Grinter

Sir, - "He made friends in Africa and with children" is the caption to a photo illustrating your extract from Chandler and Hein's study of Dr Fisher. I have the same photo in my album - although mine includes me as a grumpy toddler.

The occasion was a Lambeth garden party for missionaries in July 1957. My parents were on the eve of embarking for Madagascar with USPG. On entry, my mother was reprimanded for bringing her daughters. As the only children present, my sister and I were ushered outside the marquee, where we had a great time, oblivious of the gaffe.

Such was the merriment that Dr Fisher sought out its source, although not before someone must have told me to pipe down. Thereafter, whenever we owned up to our mistakes, my mother rejoined: "Well, at least you didn't turn up at Lambeth Palace with your children in tow."

So, yes, Dr Fisher made friends with children, and he passed into one family's lore for it.

ANNE GRINTER (née Rogers)
17 Ham Close, Cheltenham GL52 6NP

Another Fisher story, Diary, page 19


From Canon Keith Pound

Sir, - Your correspondence about Readers and eucharistic presidency ( 17, 24, and 31 August, and 7 and 21 September) began with a situation where Readers were using communion by extension to avoid the PCC's paying a fee to retired priests in the congregation.

Most of my retired friends would certainly not expect a fee when presiding in the church where they regularly worship and assist; nor would one be offered.

It would help if permission to officiate were to name the place where the priest normally operates in addition to the diocsean-wide permission. Some dioceses do this, but not all. To officiate in a parish where one normally belongs and assists would not involve a fee; the priest in question is an assistant member of staff. A fee would only be expected in another parish involved in an interregnum.

A problem about extension really need not arise in the circumstances that were described.

1 Sinnock Square, High Street, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3HQ


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