AN EAST SUSSEX parish faced with a dilemma because of an unusually specific bequest has appealed for help to spend more than £100,000 left to it in a former parishioner’s will.
In 1990, Joan Gregory Smith, who had worshipped at Holy Cross, Uckfield, for decades, bequeathed her home to the church’s treasurer when she died, on the condition it was used to house a retired clergyman who had served in the diocese of Chichester. The then Rector, Canon Cyril Peters, retired in 1996 to live in the house, until his death in 2012, at which point the parish’s troubles began.
“The house has since been sold, but the amount of money we have got is not as great as you can do a great deal with it,” the treasurer of Holy Cross, Paul Cuerden, said.
The funds, which came to about £150,000, are no longer enough to buy another home in Uckfield, owing to soaring property prices, leaving the parish wondering what to do.
“Ideally, we would like to change the terms of the will, but it’s terribly difficult to change them. The first obstacle is, can it be used outside Chichester diocese?”
The parish has advertised on the diocesan website, with no response, and it also offered to give the money to the Church of England Pensions Board, which declined the offer.
Miss Gregory Smith was moved to frame the bequest because she knew that Canon Peters did not have anywhere to live once he retired, Mr Cuerden said. “[Clergy] give their lives to the Church and when they get to retire, unless they can work something out with the Church Commissioners, it is very difficult for them.”
But now the money is back in the hands of the PCC, who have been told by the Charity Commission that they can look outside the diocese of Chichester for another retired priest to house.
Holy Cross struggles to afford to pay its parish share to the diocese each year, but it cannot use the £150,000 for any other purpose. It will stay in its accounts until the PCC finds a retired priest somewhere in England for whom it can buy a home.
Mr Cuerden said that anyone interested in taking the money off their hands should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.