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Stewardship goes on beyond grave

25 October 2013

Legacies now bring the C of E more than £40 million a year, Rachel Giles reports


Change: giving away a proportion of legacy value could make a big difference

Change: giving away a proportion of legacy value could make a big difference

"THIS cathedral will regenerate Wakefield in a way that nothing else can - it takes us to the heart of our human lives and our human community," the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, said in his sermon for the rededication of Wakefield Cathedral in March this year.

The redevelopment of the cathedral's nave was completed on time, thanks to a legacy gift of £125,000. Fund-raisers had run, swam, abseiled down the cathedral spire, and shaved off their hair to make the project happen, but one individual's commitment to the life of the cathedral ensured that the visionfor its redevelopment became a reality.

Project 2013 aimed to "return the nave to the people of Wakefield", both restoring its heritage and modernising and opening up the space to make it available not only for church use but for other groups in the city.

The pews were removed, and the floor of the nave was replaced with new Yorkshire sandstone, incorporating a labyrinth as a focus for prayer and pilgrimage. Underfloor heating was also installed, as well as a new lighting scheme and sound system for the enrichment of worship, and secular events.

The nave and aisles now look as they would have done in the 15th century. All internal walls have been cleaned, repointed, and conserved; so the history and beauty of the stone can be seen.

Legacies play an essential partin ensuring that the work of churches and cathedrals continues, contributing £44.8 million to the Church of England's income. In 2011, 4085 legacies were received, and the average amount given was £9850.

Many more cash gifts (pecuniary) than percentages of estates (residuary) are received: 83 per cent are pecuniary, and 17 per cent are residuary, compared with an almost 50-50 split between pecuniary and residuary giving within the charity sector.

Regular donations on stewardship principles (or tithing) are an established part of Christian giving. But the legacy and funding officer of the Archbishops' Council, Eleanor Gill, says that if this idea were also applied to legacies, it would have a huge impact on what the Church could do in the future.

"If we apply the principle of proportionate giving to legacies, the number of residuary gifts would increase, and, within ten years, the Church's legacy income could double."

To that end, Ms Gill runs workshops for dioceses and cathedrals on legacy giving, and offers training on how to raise the subject with congregations. "We encourage all of our churches to engage with and discuss the importance of writing a will, and how gifts in wills can make a significant difference to church life."

For more details, phone Eleanor Gill on 020 7898 1564, or email eleanor.gill@churchofengland.org.

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