The impact of Covid and the needs of those we serve requires the Church to be “simpler and humbler.. but no less bold for the Gospel” Bishop Ruth told a virtual diocesan synod this weekend, which was tasked with approving a challenging budget.
Synod recognised the requirement to draw on financial reserves now and into 2021, enabling anticipated financial support of £1.2million in 2020 for parishes which are struggling due to the Covid pandemic. Synod approved a deficit budget for next year, continuing to draw on reserves to support parishes throughout this challenging period.
Bishop Ruth, in her presidential address, said tough decisions lay ahead and the Church also had to listen much more and accept its failings – particularly its failings to protect people from abuse, as the IICSA report found- and keep asking hard questions of itself.
“One of the things the Church is relearning during this time is that we are not just here for the needs of those who belong, the 1.5% who attend Church, but also for the 98.5% who don’t. If we are indeed to put mission and evangelism at the heart of everything we do, then we must be listening to them. What are their big questions? Of this pandemic? Of us? Of God?
“Our society is asking hard questions of itself too. It is beginning to challenge its own previously held views about what it values. The status and financial security of a good career path, a solid education, these are under threat. We are beginning to remember again what relationships mean, the value of our health and those who care for us. Our value systems are under review. As a Church we have something to offer into this debate. And we need to take up the baton.
“We need to keep at the centre of our thinking that desire to be God’s people in God’s world. It may require us to become simpler and humbler as a Church. We may need to cut back on some of the things we do. We shall have to choose, to prioritise, and put to one side those things we might like but don’t need. But I trust that even as we simplify, it won’t make us any less bold for the Gospel, to be bringers of hope to a world that needs that hope.”
The Budget was presented for the last time by Prebendary Harry Musselwhite, who is stepping down as chair of the diocesan board of finance after ten years in the role, and a further three as vice chair.
He said: “This is a budget for the future, which is designed to ensure we are walking together with parishes. It includes an anticipated £1.2 million of financial support for parishes, but that can only be done once. Achieving financial sustainability means we have to find at least £750,000 of savings by next year.”
The Budget includes maintaining Parish share per member to an inflationary increase of 1.1 per cent linked to CPI in Common Fund – which represents a net decrease of 2 per cent due to declining attendance – which was a “radical step”, he said.