Friday, 14 June 2013

The Gloomy Dean

Writing in The Pilot, in 1995, the Dean of Jersey, John Seaford, suggested that by the time of the millennium, changes would be afoot in Jersey - it would not be possible to have so many autonomous Parishes. This, of course, hasn't happened very much. St Simon's Church is closed. St James Church is now part of the Art Centre, complete with dry rot and scaffolding which will probably see out my lifetime.

Apart from that, it has been pretty much business as usual. St Lawrence and St Matthew were paired back then. St Aubin no longer has a separate curate or vicar. Communicare no longer has Anglican services on Sundays. But those are all minor changes. The Parish Churches each have their own Rectors, a position now enshrined in the modern Canon law, and the District Churches - St Andrew, St Luke, All Saints, Gouray, St Mark, St Paul - all have their own Ministers. And the Dean has just appointed a Chaplain to help him at the Town Church.

John Seaford based his predictions on two matters:

(1) Church Finances.

What is the position with the quota today? Are there any Parishes falling behind? Has the position changed? Something must have happened to ensure that Jersey could still pay its way. The quota seems to have undergone a name change; it's now called the "Parish Share". For 2013, Jersey was given a Parish Share of £859,502. Going back a year or two, in 2011, it was £817,371 - and by 11 Jan 2012, £765,149 had been received, leaving a shortfall of £52,222. To put in in perspective, all but one of the districts in the Parish were behind in 2011.   

The Principles for calculating Parish Share are roughly

- Each parish pays for the proportion of stipendiary parish ministry it is allocated
- Other general costs and income are shared by all parishes based on average numbers attending
- Inter-parish support

So clearly if you reduce the number of clergy, you reduce the Parish Share, which is in line with what John Seaford is saying. But what seems to be the case is that, across the board, Winchester seems to live with the shortfalls, which is something John Seaford assumed would not happen. If Jersey alone fell short, then losing clergy could be an outcome, but all across the Diocese there seems to be a shortfall. It is also noteworthy that the Parish supports the maintenance of Church fabric to a degree that simply does not happen in the UK. If the position of Rectors and Benefices was reconsidered, that might also go into the melting pot.

(2) Availability of Clergy

2011 figures collated for 2009 for the Church of England show that while the numbers of people being training for ordination remained buoyant,  the number of retirements also remained high. Taking retirements and other losses into account, there was a net loss of 129 full-time paid clergy. But that's relatively small. The report in 2012 showed that the number of people ordained to stipendiary (paid) ministry - 264 in 2011 - has remained broadly stable over the past 16 years. While the non-stipendiary Ministry has also shown a considerable increase, paid clergy numbers have not shown a notable decline, unlike the Roman Catholic church, which has a steep decline. 

It is perhaps noteworthy here that the number of women clergy, paid and unpaid, continues to rise. In 2011 there were 1,763 women in full-time paid parochial appointments compared with 1,140 in 2000, an increase of 50 per cent over the decade. Women make up over one in five (22 per cent) of paid parish clergy. Women in 2011 made up more than half of both those in self-supporting ministry (54 per cent) and of licensed readers (51 per cent).

The Church of  England authorised the ordination of woman priests in 1992 and began ordaining them in 1994. That's just one year before the Pilot article, and it is almost certain that John Seaford would have not realised the great sea-change which that brought about. It is clear from the statistics that women's ministry has certainly been a major factor in maintaining the stability of paid clergy numbers, and St Martin's Church in Jersey has the first woman Rector in the Island, which was probably almost inconceivable in the rather more conservative church culture in Jersey back in 1994.
Moreover, Jersey continues to prove a popular place for Anglican clergy to come, which is perhaps hardly surprising. Despite the high cost of living, and high transport costs, the Island is still a very beautiful place, with low crime, and given the relatively small size of the Parishes, must be very attractive. I'd imagine the same is true in Guernsey.

We can see how two assumptions made by the Dean were in fact mistaken, and while there is clearly pressure from Winchester to reduce clergy numbers,  the rather gloomy predictions made have not come to pass. John Seaford could certainly put William Inge a run for his money with his pessimism.

That is no cause for complacency, and with women bishops still on the agenda, the Church of England still has stormy waters to navigate, especially given the intransigent line taken by the local Synod.

But it is interesting to look back and see another prediction for the future, and how this came out in practice. Like the 2020 predictions, forecasting the future is a difficult act.

The Pilot, the Dean's Letter, 1994
AFTER a brief moment when the number of clergy in the Anglican Churches  here equaled the number of posts, we are back in the position of being one short. The vacancy at St Lawrence with St Matthew will concentrate the mind, certainly of those parishioners, on what it might be like in the future. Just to maintain the status quo a couple of retired priests living in England have been invited to come over for a few weeks each to hold the fort. Local church people will also rally-to and provide liturgical leadership to help fill the gaps. But what of the future?
It has now become apparent that one parish in this Deanery was a long way short of paying its share of the Diocesan Quota last year, and one other parish fell just slightly short. Quota is the name given to the amount of money each Deanery is asked to provide to cover the cost of maintaining the ministry in the parishes. With the withdrawal of the Church Commissioners' grant, each year the Quota contributes more and more towards the stipend of the clergy, as well as meeting the cost of central administration, specialist ministries, training of present and future clergy, Church government, new church building, and Episcopal oversight, along with an extra amount (called TFR) to be given away to less affluent dioceses in England and abroad.
Virtually every parish still receives more through direct and indirect benefits, than it contributes in Quota. However much of an economy it may seem not to pay the Quota, it is the actual life-blood of the Church. Without that money the whole system will collapse. Some parishes in Norfolk recently decided to opt out and not pay the Quota, and become self-financing. This will not work. Because we are all part of the national Church, rather than a set of individual churches, the skeleton that holds it all together is necessary, and must be paid for.
This year the Quota has been increased by 15 per cent. Assuming the Diocesan Synod approves, the ancient parish churches will have to find £21,000, and the district parish churches £15,500, with an increased Deanery Quota as well. Already parishes are warning that the shortfall will be significantly worse than last year.
So be it. If we cannot afford what we currently enjoy, we must reduce our consumption. As it would appear that the Deanery cannot afford the existing number of clergy, it would seem necessary that the number is reduced.
It has been calculated that a reduction of three clergy would decrease the Quota assessment by 15 per cent. So, a very simplistic solution to ensure that this year's deficit is no worse than last year's, would be not to replace Neville Beamer, and to persuade two other clergy to leave Jersey immediately. (No nominations, please!)
Even that would not solve the problem in the long term. We have already been warned that, because of the Church Commissioners' diminishing grant, next year's increase in Quota might well be another 15 per cent. So we would need to shed another three clergy. Of course there is more to this problem than just money. There is also the question of availability of clergy within the whole Church of England.
But the writing is on the wall. By the end of this millennium, the Church of England in Jersey will not be able to have so many stipendiary clergy. Despite the ordination later this year of two non-stipendiary clergy, and however unthinkable it may be, the system will have to change. The deployment of the clergy we can afford, and are available, will have to reflect the needs of the community. No longer will it be possible to have such a large number of autonomous parishes. The laity will have to work out how best to share the available clergy, and devise ways of providing the pastoral care, and doing the administrative chores, for their neighbourhood. In the long term it will be a good thing for the laity to assume an ever greater responsibility for their own church.

No comments: