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Issue 3 number 2 Nov 2016

Finance - fundamental to faith Andrew Birks

I The Editors

Andrew Colborne Alexandra Green Louise Heffernan Sheila Hills

Silvia Joinson David Pope

Carol Worthington

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t’s that time of year again. For the church treasurer – for this one at any rate – the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is the season of spreadsheets and budgets. And the first sign of this seasonal change is the Diocesan Financial

Briefing, to which all treasurers in the diocese are invited to hear how it has set its budget for the following year. In turn the diocese’s costs filter down through the deaneries as the Parish Share, to which we all contribute through regular giving and collections in church.

This year the meeting for the Dorchester Archdeaconry took place in Bicester, in the Emmanuel Church, a ‘fresh expressions’ church established in the Bure Park area of the Town. This venue reflected the theme of this year’s meeting which was resourc- ing mission in the extensive new housing developments which are appearing throughout Oxfordshire.

The diocese is looking at future planning for clergy numbers in the face of a declin- ing background of vocations to the ministry. National projections show a significant reduction in the number of stipendiary clergy by the end of the decade on present trends. The ‘Renewal and Reform’ initiative of the Church of England envisages a target of a 50% increase in ordinations by 2023, and the Diocese hope to increase the number of vocations in this period accordingly. To this end they are planning to in- crease resources in the long term for those training for ministry, to support new na- tional initiatives that will take effect in the autumn of 2017. Nevertheless this plan- ning takes place against a current background of increasing clergy vacancies across the diocese, some resulting from retirements, which reduces costs, and so the diocese has accounted for this as well.

Of course these costs are inevitably passed down to the parishes. Direct ministry costs (stipends, clergy housing and pensions) accounted for 64% of Diocesan ex- penditure in 2015, while the parish share contributed 80% (of their income. The share is a major part of each parish’s budget (the figure for the Parish of Abingdon- on Thames was 49%) and the treasurer must reconcile this with the other costs which each church faces – insurance, heating and lighting, administration and all the other day-to-day costs of running the church.

Sometimes people dismiss finance as boring. However, the preparation of the budget is an important step in planning the churches’ finances for the future. It is wrong to dismiss finance as somehow detached from the mission of the church – on the con- trary it is essential in resourcing it, and the idea that religion is somehow separate from the world is the opposite of the truth – it is in finance that we confront the world head on. When the treasurer is immersed in the detail of the financial projec- tions, it is helpful to stand back and reflect that one’s role, properly speaking, is to help enable the church’s mission into the future.

Andrew Birks is PCC Treasurer for the parish of Abingdon-on-Thames and worships at St Nicolas’

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