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How best to help rural congregations in future

by
11 December 2015

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From the Revd Toddy Hoare

Sir, — It is no use burdening clergy with too much plant, as the pastoral care suffers. There is a balance, as a closed church will stand for failure; and many, whom you will not see on a Sunday, will seek a church’s space and solitude for quiet, prayer, and reflection; so, again, do not lock it during the day either.

I was a lucky incumbent — with 15 churchwardens and one owner of a private chapel for eight churches; so the fabric was maintained, and I was free to visit, study, teach, and prepare, depending on ministerial and parish demands. I had to do, or explain in detail, faculty applications, as the laity did not understand them, and carry the can when it went pear-shaped. Now many dioceses lay on much-appreciated training days for churchwardens.

No doubt, most villages will continue to ensure their church is kept watertight. Here, the dioceses might help by employing a full-time maintenance team to clear and straighten gutters and replace tiles, as no middle-aged lady or pensioner is going to ascend a ladder when health and safety dictate the insurance policy. Rural churches will have to push the boat out for special occasions and festivals, community and family events, and may have to book a priest for such services.

There should be a new scale of fees for occasional offices to take into account the maintenance of the fabric and ensure its availability for those who wish to use it, as family rites of passage are celebrated in church by those for whom the service makes the occasion more meaningful.

TODDY HOARE
Pond Farm House, Holton
Oxford OX33 1PY

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