This week St Anne’s will have hosted – as the Parish Church – a funeral, a baptism and a wedding (We don’t often get all three in a week, two out of three is not unusual). We will have had a quieter midweek Communion Service where there is space for prayer and reflection, and a chance for a cup of tea afterwards. We will have hosted the Sunday Worship to which of course all are welcome, younger and older, and there was also, of course, a service at St James. In the churchyard, every day people will have come to remember loved ones, to leave flowers, to be still; others will have tended their allotment, walked the dog, or just gone for a walk themselves. Some will have engaged with the labyrinth, which allows us to slow down and put ourselves as created people in Creation and with our Creator.
This week the Church Council also met, not least to look at how to plan in the light of massively increased utility bills and the likelihood that they will increase further after October. We expect the utility bills for the two churches, which were already significant, will go from around £14,000 (2019) to over £40,000 (2022), and this is despite more economic boilers in St Anne’s. The unit cost has already trebled and the churches are not protected as are domestic households by a “cap”.
We know that other organisations and community buildings are facing the same sort of challenges, and that those who give are seeing rising costs, without a rise in income. We need to look at all the ways we can save money, reduce costs, while still being welcoming; we need to look at all the ways we might increase our income, without losing our soul or our purpose. We need to set realistic hourly costs for room-hire, even if they seem much higher than in previous years, but we want to help support community-enhancing groups and events.
Maybe the big question is – “Are our churches worth keeping?” Although there is money in central Church of England Investments, each diocese and then each parish is essentially a separate charity. We are primarily responsible for keeping the church, building and activities, in our parish. The Church Council will work to keep us as the church for the parish and in the parish.
The diocese has a strapline – “Church for a different world” – and we have negotiated Covid – it has not been easy, and we will have made mistakes, for which apologies. Now we are negotiating the huge challenge of rapidly increased heating costs, and how we might manage through the colder months.
It will need to be a shared journey and undertaking – but we trust and hope that we will still be where the life-events are celebrated and shared, where worship and prayer are available for all, somewhere which is a living part of our wider community. If you are a regular giver, thank you; if you are not, would you please consider a regular donation – how to do so, just scroll down. If you can help please offer; if you pray, please continue to pray for and uphold, not just our parish but all the local churches across the country, and the community groups and centres. The most valuable things in life are not measured by profit but by their contribution.
Rev’d Peter Reiss