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Church ‘facing crisis’

Posted on April 25 2006 at 2:30:16

Anyone who read the Rector of Alvechurch’s annual report in the April issue of the church publication The Grapevine will have seen brief mention of two small clouds on the horizon: the fall in the number of regular churchgoers and of those on the Electoral Roll, and “we have a deficit in our budget”. Let us look at these two matters.

In 2005 there were 203 names on the Electoral Roll and this should be seen against the maximum reached in recent years of 220 in 1999.

As to attendance, every report in recent years has claimed an average Sunday attendance of 200, but in 2005 this is reduced to 180.

It is idle to suggest that the thousand parents and grandparents and cousins and aunts who come to watch the children’s play at Christmas make up for the reduction in regular churchgoers.

Indeed, all the indications are that at every service the congregation is falling.

Turning to the Report and Annual Accounts for 2005, the following salient points are clear. In 2004 the ordinary running of the church, that is excluding and expenditure on the church extension, resulted in a deficit of £19,665.

This in the accounts was reduced to £4,665 by bringing in the sum of £15,000 that the builders of the homes on the Black Paddock, Westbury, paid to the church for accepting in perpetuity responsibility for maintaining the remaining land dedicated as a public children’s playground.

During 2005, the accounts now presented, and on the same basis of excluding costs relating to the construction of the extension, the deficit rose to £22,719 – and this only shows part of the picture.

For the first time in my knowledge, St Laurence has failed to pay its full Diocesan Quota, namely £30,000 against a claim of £47,800, an underpayment of £17,800.

Further, the annual payments that for years have been paid to home and overseas charities has been slashed from £3,800 in 2004 to £450 in 2005.

It is clear that if these payments been met as usual, the deficit would have been more than £40,000, which, against an ordinary income of £70,000 represents a situation that beggars belief.

The deficit of £22,719 in 2005 was transferred to the General Fund, that is the fund that can be used for any appropriate church purposes, as against the Restricted Funds – for churchyard maintenance, church bells etc.

Although the sale of the Black Paddock fetched £1,400,000, a further £163,000 had to be withdrawn from the General Funds to meet the cost of building the extension and since then, in order to meet overruns, a further £28,000 has been taken from the fund.

The result of all of this is that a fund of more than £250,000 has dwindled to £53,000, and unless action is taken to stop these deficits the fund will be exhausted.

I have no doubt that some will say this is no concern of mine since, after many years as a regular member of the congregation and six years as the Independent Examiner of the Church Accounts, I for good reason removed my name from the Electoral Roll.

May I answer by quoting from the Guidance and Regulations issued by the Central Board of Finance of the Church of England.

Having established that PCCs are charities subject to the Charities Act 1993, it goes on to say “charities are accountable to the public for the resources they control.

Charitable organisations receiving funds for public benefit are able to demonstrate to the public that they have observed the trust placed in them in the handling and use of the funds . . and require that charities’ activities are fully disclosed to the public. The accounts must be made available to the public”.

What the inhabitants of Alvechurch are entitled to know is what action is being taken to deal with what clearly is a crisis.

Wilfrid English
Alvechurch


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