Thursday, 17 December 2009

Clergy Cutbacks

THE number of Church of England clergymen - including parish rectors - could be reduced following the announcement that the diocese of Winchester has to make cuts of £1.6 million. The Dean of Jersey, the Very Rev Bob Key, said that dioceses across England were having to reduce the number of clergy, but he added that 'the jury was still out' on whether Jersey would have to follow suit. Mr Key said that people would have to get to grips with the reality that the church did not have 'millions stashed away'. Mr Key, who attended a meeting on Monday on funding shortages with the Bishop of Winchester, the Right Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, said that the Island could only deploy the clergy that they can afford to pay. Mr Scott-Joynt recently announced a budget reduction for 2010 that would address the effects of the recession. He said: 'The Diocesan Synod, the diocese's decision-making body, has agreed what we believe to be an equitable budget. It should ensure that we sustain our vision and resource our mission appropriately in 2010.'(1)

A few facts are useful by way of background. A report on the diocese of Winchester as a whole notes that:

Ecclesiastically the Diocese is served by 411 churches grouped in 203 benefices; 13 deaneries and 2 archdeaconries on the mainland, and two deaneries in the Channel Islands. There are approximately 240 stipendiary clergy serving in the diocese; three Bishops, a Cathedral Dean, two archdeacons and a Dean for each of Jersey and Guernsey.(3)

So in terms of paid clergy per church, around each member of the clergy looks after 1.7 churches. Now there are some churches with clergy "doubling up", such as St Matthews Glass Church and St Ouen in Jersey, or St Brelade and St Aubin, but equally, there are churches such as St Marks, St Luke, St Andrew and St Paul which have just one member of clergy. If one looks at the total number of paid clergy in Jersey, and number of churches, my calculations are that on a proportional basis, there should be only 11-12 clergy at most in the Jersey over all the Anglican churches.

Of course part of the reason for the high numbers of clergy is the historical links between Parish and the 12 Parish Churches. The Rector is automatically a member of the Parish Roads Committee, is thereby involved in the Branchage inspections along with other Municipal duties, and on the other side of the equation, the Parish often maintains or helps to maintain the Rectory and Church financially.

This is a historical link, but it is not a necessary one. In England, for example, as in Jersey, the Church of England is the "established" church, but this does not necessitate either the automatic involvement of Rectors as part of the local Municipality, or of rate payers funds for Church fabric or clergy residence.

This should also be part of the equation. As far as the Diocese of Winchester is concerned, it should be aware that it is, in effect, subsidised in Jersey by the rate payer, and any reduction in clergy, especially on the numbers of rectors, might lead to increased costs by breaking that link.

Equally, however, as far as Parishes are concerned, should the Church of England have a privileged position (over other denominations) where ratepayers' taxes are concerned? I have no objection to my rates being used this way, but I think as a matter of justice, the position should be reassessed. But if it is, will the Parish or the Island take responsibility for maintaining historical church buildings? And would the Rector also not be required to take part in Parish matters? These are all questions which should be perhaps considered.

An interesting report by Trevor Cooper on Church Buildings gives notes on in Lincoln, a rural diocese:

The diocese of Lincoln has 647 church buildings... About two-thirds (65%) of these buildings are listed Grade I or II*; fewer than one in ten (9%) of the churches are unlisted. These churches are served by about 200 full time parochial clergy, averaging more than three church buildings per cleric.

Where is report is useful is that it shows how reduced paid clergy can by supplemented by non-paid clergy and other forms of ministry, which is a change which has already happened in Jersey in some Parishes:

To cope with its particular pressures, Lincoln has developed innovative forms of nonstipendiary leadership and ministry. There are a large number of people with such roles, including nearly 200 people accredited to minister at church services, and a further 230 lay readers, organised by deanery groups.

The report also looks at the old Victorian churches in Manchester, and comments that:

There is often no relationship now between the physical size of church and the population of the parish. This is not surprising. Not only have there been large movements of population in the last two hundred years, but the Victorians often built churches larger than the parish needed, sometimes assuming that a popular church would attract those from outside the parish... Indeed one can start to question the whole notion of a parish in  today's urban environment, and some dioceses are looking at ways of creating more fluid geographical groupings.

Rather than just closing churches, some of the space in these Victorian churches (often with relatively small congregations to the number of available pews), can be redeployed in innovative ways, especially where they are close to a centre of population, and do not have their own church hall.

At the simpler end of the spectrum - and much more commonly - there are changes such as the provision of basic catering facilities in the church (e.g. at the rear of the nave); the opening up of space by removing pews (often at the rear or in an aisle); the use of screens to create new rooms (for example, enclosing a transept); or the building of an extension, attached or unattached. Not only does this type of change allow worshippers to congregate more easily after the service (outside the scope of this section), but also allows the church building to be used for a wider variety of purposes, such as a mother and toddlers group or occasional concerts. Some churches have been more imaginative: one holds a regular Farmers' Market in the nave of the church building, and another has a village shop in the vestry.(2)

One of the people whom Trevor Cooper spoke to says that there can be resistance to change, sometimes  from the church members themselves:

Another problem is that many PCCs won't relax the use of church buildings. Some have - realising that the only way to keep the church alive is to have it open and to have it used for functions other than the one-hour Sunday service. Others shut their doors and have the Sunday Club mentality - at their peril.

We need to get away from the 'static' mentality - one should not try to preserve buildings in some time bubble where they never change and yet have to be used as working buildings. While conservation bodies fear that we may lose these buildings because of some Victorian holocaust of 'restoration', we risk losing them anyway.(2)

He also looks further afield, and quotes a correspondent from Stockholm, who notes that:
In Stockholm it was a delight to find most churches open, often with a small open-plan office area with computer and phone manned by members of the congregation or students. In  return for this free office space, people sold postcards and answered queries from visitors and took messages for the clergy. It is a bit odd to hear a phone ring inside a church but better that than being locked up six days out of seven. Every Stockholm church I went in had at least one other person in it, and often many more. People with armloads of shopping sat down for five minutes, taking a break from the retail experience.(2)

I know that churches are often locked when not in use because of problems with vandalism and theft, which is why many churches in England are closed. When I visited Southampton a few years ago, all except two of the city's churches were locked up, and those that were not were manned by volunteers. This is also true of some church in Jersey, such as St Luke's, which is even locked up on Sunday afternoons. Yet the report by Trevor Cooper looks at a survey on "how do you think of your local church/chapel?", which came with the answer:

Place of worship 83%
Quiet place or sanctuary 73%
Local landmark 59%
Social / community venue 56%
Historic place 53%

If a church is locked up when not in use, it can hardly function as either a historic place - and Jersey churches should surely be more on the the Tourism map - or as a quiet place or sanctuary. Often, like many other people (73%) in the survey, I have stopped for a few moments quiet and reflection inside one of our churches, and this valuable spiritual function (often not noted in congregational statistics) is lost when churches are forced to lock themselves away from the outside world.


No comments: