The Rt Revd Lee Rayfield, Bishop of Swindon, writes about our approach to handling our finances.
A few weeks ago I was shocked to read that Rochester Diocese was facing a financial crisis which required its Diocesan Synod to take dramatic measures. Rochester has regularly been flagged as a leading example of good ministerial practice in the C of E and I had not picked up that their finances were in trouble.
I write this with no sense of rejoicing in others problems. The realities for us are that the majority of churches in the Diocese are not meeting their costs of ministry and some members of our churches are contributing less per week than they spend in a coffee shop.
We have been developing a new approach to giving which best expresses our vision of Creating connections - with God, with each other, and with our communities. Sharing in the costs of ministry requires us to embrace our interdependence and rise to the mutual responsibilities we have for one another. We are truly in this together as part of the body of Christ and not atomized entities or units. We already know that many congregations make huge efforts to be generous to others; I pray every congregation would catch this collective spirit.
In my first role as a vicar, I remember being told as we moved into the vicarage that emergency meetings about income were being held in the week before my licensing. Twelve months later, we had established a positive, clear and intentional focus on giving and a regular pattern for teaching about it.
How we approach and handle our finances becomes so much clearer once there is a foundation in Christian discipleship and a vision for God's Kingdom at its heart. We shall always need to talk about money but we can do it so much better on that foundation and when we remember money is a servant and not the master.
More details about the new approach to Parish Share can be found here.