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Churchwarden fishes for cash on the doorstep

12 February 2021

Margaret Fryer

Margaret Fryer on the Bourneville Estate, Weston-Super-Mare, collecting from Gwen Cox, a parishioner

Margaret Fryer on the Bourneville Estate, Weston-Super-Mare, collecting from Gwen Cox, a parishioner

A CHURCHWARDEN has devised a way of boosting her church’s net income by literally fishing for cash.

Margaret Fryer, who worships at St Andrew’s, Bournville, in Weston-super-Mare, in Bath & Wells diocese, visits parishioners at home, using a pond-net to pick up the money from a safe social distance, after the Covid shutdown halted normal donations through the plate.

“God must have given me the idea,” Mrs Fryer said. “I was trying to think of a way I could collect money without getting too close.” She started last September, making a monthly trip to about ten parishioners who normally bring planned-giving envelopes to church. The collection is then dropped into a bucket for sanitising.

She initially used a landing net that her husband uses when fishing, but changed to a lighter telescopic net that she bought for her four grandsons to use rock-pooling. “I pull it out, ring the doorbell, and stand back,” she said.

“People were quite amused the first time I did it, and, with all the social isolation, it gives them a chance to see a face, too. They are mostly elderly, and some are feeling rather cut off; so it’s a chance to talk. I rarely get away without a chat.”

People now watch out for her multi-coloured coat as she makes her rounds. “It just happened to be a cold day the first time I did it, and so many commented about it that I wear it to let them know the collector is coming.” And she is prepared for canine parishioners on her rounds: “I keep dog treats in the pocket just in case.”

The Rector of St Andrew’s, the Revd Tim Erridge, said that the church relied on the collection for a significant part of its income. “It’s a parish with a lot of social disadvantage; so funding is always a problem, and we have had a significant drop because of the lockdown. We are still short of money, but we are a lot better off than we would be if we weren’t doing it this way.

“A year ago, we would have just thought Margaret was totally bonkers, but we have got to be open about doing stuff we thought was stupid . . . and it works. Anything that helps should be looked at. I just hope it encourages other to do it.”

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