THIS week our Lenten appeal opens for the Church Times Train-A-Priest Fund.
The Church Times began the TAP Fund in 1952. Readers have given generously every year since then to support ordinands who struggle financially during their training. It was conceived by Rosamund Essex, a former Church Times editor, in response to hearing of the hardship experienced by married ordinands on grants calculated for single, young men.
Since then, with the paper’s example before them, dioceses have increased their funding for ordinands with families. As a consequence, in more recent decades, the TAP Fund has been used to top up grants to ordinands in full-time training whose funding is inadequate.
A few years back we began the Special Hardship Fund, designed to provide immediate assistance if someone suffers an unforeseen financial crisis. Anyone in training for the priesthood, whether full- or part-time, at a college or on a course, can apply for an emergency grant from the Ministry Division, who disburse all the funds raised during the TAP appeal.
Until now, a small proportion of the TAP donations were directed into the Special Hardship Fund. In discussions with the Ministry Division, however, we have discovered that the demand for hardship grants far outstrips the money we have made available.
Typically, an ordinand who applies for a special hardship grant — perhaps because of a broken-down car, a failed computer, a faulty heating boiler, or something more serious, such as funeral expenses — receives just half what he or she asks for, and must look help elsewhere for the rest.
Another factor is that the C of E’s recruitment drive is bearing fruit, and the number of ordinands is going up — and with it the number of applications for hardship grants.
For these reasons, we have decided that everything raised in this year’s TAP appeal will go into the Special Hardship Fund.
We want to be in a position to promote the fund to ordinands, inviting them to approach the Ministry Division with confidence that their financial worries can be solved.
The chair of the Ministry Council, writes:
Sir, — As ever, we are delighted that the Church Times is again launching its annual Lent Train-A-Priest appeal. Last year, readers pledged almost £70,000, bringing the total value of donations since the fund began to over four million.
We are always overwhelmed by the readers’ generosity. Every penny donated goes directly to ordinands, and from this year will be used exclusively to alleviate unforeseen financial hardship.
It’s an exciting time for ministerial education in the Church of England: 544 new ordinands began training this academic year. This is the highest number in a decade, and a 14-per-cent increase on last year. The growth includes a 19-per-cent increase in women ordinands, who make up just over half this year’s cohort. The number of young ordinands, aged 32 or under, is up 39 per cent.
These figures are very encouraging. We can see these signs of how God is at work in parishes and chaplaincies up and down the land. We are delighted that our faithful commitment to praying and working for an increase in the number of ordinands is bearing such fruit.
Training for ordination brings both sacrifice and blessing for the ordinands, and their families and friends. We have a broad package of financial support available to provide basic support through their training. But over and again, ordinands experience unexpected financial needs, which can make their personal circumstances very challenging indeed.
This is where your readers come in. Their unceasing generosity funds a pot of money which allows us to support ordinands through special hardship, enabling them to continue to flourish as they set out along the path laid out for them. On behalf of every ordinand who has benefited, or will benefit, from this fund, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks.
May you and your readers have a blessed Lent and a glorious Easter.
(The Rt Revd) Martin Seeley
Most ordinands and their families make huge sacrifices when they give up well-paid jobs to answer the call to the priesthood. A donation to the TAP Fund is a practical way to affirm and support their calling — and to ensure that the next generation of priests can concentrate on their studies, not their debts.
How to give:
GIVING online is easiest for many donors, and for us. Simply visit hymnsam.co.uk/train-a-priest. This is a secure page with clear instructions.
We also accept cheques, postal orders, cash, and charity cheques, which should be sent to: TAP Fund, Church Times, 13a Hellesdon Park Road, Norwich NR6 5DR. If you would like an acknowledgement, please enclose a SAE. UK taxpayers can boost their gift by making a Gift Aid declaration. Please do this on our online donations page, or by enclosing a TAP Fund donation form.
Spread the word:
PLEASE encourage other people to give to TAP, too. You can download a colour leaflet here; and we encourage churches to hold a special collection or fund-raising effort. Please let us know about your support, and your stories, if you are doing so: we like to mention them in the Church Times.