Letters to the Editor

by
22 November 2019

‘Magic money tree’, Festival of Remembrance, and crematorium funeral fees

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The fruits of the ‘magic money tree’

From the Revd David Wyatt

Sir, — I read with interest the article on the Strategic Development Funding (SDF) scheme (Features, 15 November). I would hope that there are few in the Church who would decry the growth of the Body of Christ. It is good to see that churches are being revitalised or placed into new areas. The history of the Church is full of such examples. The planting of churches in the Welsh Valleys by the Cowley Fathers is one that comes to mind.

There are two snags, however. First, the enthusiastic publication of some numbers without transparency about the way such projects measure up against what was promised: namely, what is working, and what is not, perhaps, turning out as hoped. I do not get a sense that learning points are being sought so as to develop and modify future projects. This could lead to the conclusion that church money is being spent blindly — making it highly possible that mistakes and bad targeting are repeated time and time again.

The second snag is the restructuring of the Church outside the funded projects. Comments by some of the clergy interviewed expressed this well. I have to confess to taking comments by archbishops and suchlike regarding austerity and welfare reform with a heavy pinch of salt; for SDF funding replaced the Darlow funding. Dioceses, in the main, can now fund parochial ministry and central administration only from their own funds. Some can. It would seem, as regularly reported, that many cannot — just like the withdrawal of central-government grants to local authorities. Inevitability, rural bus routes, libraries on suburbs and estates, and family-support work all had to go, as they were not cost-effective or sustainable. Likewise, clergy numbers and support to parishes in the villages, estates, and outer suburbs are being reduced for much the same reason. Mission is hampered in those areas which are not “the chosen”.

The hands of diocesan bishops and secretaries have been tied, and austerity has been forced on rural and northern dioceses. That which is for the common good is not necessarily also that which is financially viable or sustainable. Subsidiarity is required. The architects may not directly experience what they have implemented. Yet, as the rumour of God goes mute in places where it has been maintained for generations past, so God’s Church suffers.

DAVID WYATT
Sunnybrook, Wellington
Herefordshire HR4 8AZ

 

From the Revd Paul Cowan

Sir, — As one of the authors of the research into the disbursement of Lowest Income Community Funding (LICF) which the Church Times kindly reported (News, 8 November), I would like to highlight a great disparity.

The Strategic Investment Board manages the disbursement of nearly £50 million each year of Renewal and Reform funding, half of which goes into SDF and half to LICF. The Board’s 2018 report gives 16 pages to SDF, and two to LICF. It was the same ratio in the 2017 report.

Please would the Board give as much energy and interest to LICF as it does to SDF. The life of the Church and investment in our poorest communities needs to be researched, reported, and heard.

Please, sir, be aware of this inequality in your coverage of SDF and LICF; and, while I am pleading, would LICF recipient dioceses please give a thorough account of their use of the funding in their financial returns to the Board.

PAUL COWAN
5 Groveland Road
Newbury RG14 1SR

 

Omission from Festival of Remembrance 

From the Archdeacon of Blackburn

Sir, — It was good to watch the Festival of Remembrance televised once again from the Royal Albert Hall. Having watched this programme for many years, I think that in general the organisers have done a remarkable job of gently modernising it from year to year and giving it a more contemporary feel. The use of video projection on to the floor of the hall was a particular triumph this year, especially in the moving beach-landing scene.

One change that has really stood out to me over the past two years, however, is that there has been no Bible reading in the act of worship. For an act of Christian worship on a national occasion, this seems a remarkable omission.

The reading chosen was quite appropriate, and I think came from Kahlil Gibran, but while a suitable non-scriptural reading can of course be an addition to a service, it is hardly appropriate to replace a reading from the Bible.

MARK IRELAND
Diocesan Offices
Clayton House
Walker Office Park
Blackburn BB1 2QE

 

The parishes and the crematorium funeral fee 

From Canon Nicholas Aiken

Sir, — Referring to last week’s letters regarding the parochial fees and the imposition that the full crematorium fee should now pass to the diocesan board of finance: this raises a more fundamental issue whether the clergy were actually consulted over the change — and, of course, the answer is an emphatic no.

It seems that the Church as an institution increasingly sees the clergy as employees who have no contractual rights, and serve merely as fund-raisers for the central organisation!

NICHOLAS AIKEN
The Rectory, Aviary Road,
Pyrford, Woking GU22 8TH

 

From the Revd Peter Barham

Sir, — Caroline, my church administrator — paid for by the PCCs — deals with funeral directors regularly, regardless of where the funeral will take place. We work together to ensure that the service is organised and the Order of Service prepared. She maintains the GDPR record so that we know the family want to keep in touch. If they do (and no one has ever said no), she will send the anniversary card from the church, the card at Christmas, and the invitation to the All Souls’ service.

The PCC will pray for the deceased and their family, support them, and support us in our ministry. Caroline and the treasurers of the PCCs will handle the finances and make sure the diocesan board of finance (DBF) gets its cut.

May we send the DBF an invoice for the work the PCC does?

It would have been nice to receive a copy of the new fee tables with our last pay slip (as we used to do) rather than read about the increase (and the change) in the Church Times. May I send the DBF an invoice for the cost of my Church Times subscription?

PETER BARHAM
The Vicarage, King’s Croft
Allestree, Derby DE22 2FN

 

Protester should be applauded, not disciplined 

From Paul and Joanna Clifford

Sir, — Knowing the Revd Sue Parfitt to be a courageous fighter against injustice, we were horrified to read her letter to you (15 November) indicating that she was under threat of disciplinary action by her bishop for having been arrested during the October XR protests in London. We understand from contact with her that this threat has now been withdrawn, though a record is being kept on her “blue file” (whatever that may be).

It seems to us that, far from being carpeted like errant schoolchildren, clergy who are prepared to risk their own safety to protest against the failure of government to protect its citizens from the worst crisis now facing us should be commended by their bishops as an example.

As a diocese, Bristol should be proud of people like Sue Parfitt, and congregations there should be encouraged to pray that God will call more clergy like her to serve them.

PAUL CLIFFORD
JOANNA CLIFFORD
Michaelmas Cottage
Bletchingdon Road
Kirtlington OX5 3HF

 

From Mr Andrew Graystone

Sir, — The Revd Sue Parfitt fears that she may lose her licence as a result of being arrested during an Extinction Rebellion protest. Can we expect that Jesus will be barred from ministering in the Church of England as a result of his controversial arrest by Caiaphas? How did we get from the place where being arrested was part of the job description of a Christian (Luke 12.11) to the place where it is considered a disciplinary offence?

ANDREW GRAYSTONE
17 Rushford Avenue
Manchester M19 2HG

 

Follow that reading? 

From Dr George Harrison

Sir, — The latest #Follow the Star has now been published, and I hope that it will be successful in spreading the Christmas message to many who would not otherwise receive it. My concern is that, although there is a reading each day, the reading is not printed in the publication. The reader has either to obtain a Bible or access it online.

That maybe fine for many people, but many of our parishioners may not own books, let alone a Bible. In our church school, one quarter of pupils are disadvantaged and in receipt of free school meals, many have English as a second language, and 36 different primary languages are spoken.

To make this form of outreach accessible, why not print the readings in full?

GEORGE HARRISON
11 Hollister Drive
Birmingham B32 3XG

 

Anglican v. Episcopal 

From Mr Christopher Rigg

Sir, – I was surprised at the Rt Revd Mark Edington’s article suggesting limits to the use of the word “Anglican” (Comment, 8 November). In the two meetings, Ostend 1968 and Canterbury 1972, that gave rise to the Anglican diocese in Europe, the name gave rise to little discussion apart from the preposition “in” rather than “of”, since probably half the members of chaplaincies on the Continent are expatriates, guests in many countries. In Eindhoven at that time, we had about 20 nationalities, though many with Dutch partners. We adopted the name Anglican Church Eindhoven, without any question, as part of a larger Anglican organisation. We certainly could not have accepted “Church of England Eindhoven”.

The larger issue of reducing the anomaly of four distinct Anglican organisations in Western Europe was only partly solved. There were two Church of England organisations: the independent diocese of Gibraltar and the jurisdiction of Western Europe under the diocese of London. They, at least, were combined.

The United States’ Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and the Old Catholic Churches remain separate, though there is more cooperation, including an annual conference of the bishops. My suggestion of attaching it to the Scottish Episcopal Church would also have had disadvantages, though it might have suited Bishop Edington in nurturing the epithet “Episcopal”.

There may have been more chance of drawing in the Americans and the Old Catholics if the new diocese (or perhaps archdiocese) had been independent of the Church of England, where it is unestablished in an established national Church. When I questioned Bishop Harold Isherwood in the 1970s, he said that the main difficulty was terms of employment of the clergy — in particular, pensions. An administrative headquarters in London, outside the boundaries of the diocese, was another anomaly, now corrected.

It is now 1300 years since Archbishop Willibrord set up the first “chaplaincies” in these parts of Germania. There is still room for improvements.

CHRISTOPHER RIGG
Langhoven 57
6721 SL Bennekom
Netherlands

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