Winchester cut the budget – but the buck stops where?

The tower of the Guildhall Winchester - pictured at our MakePovertyHistory rally 4th June 06!An update from my previous story about the need for Winchester Diocese to cut £1million from its budget because parishes couldn’t increase their giving because of the recession.

The Church Times Blog posted to say the cuts had been passed, with lots of links relating to the popular chaplain at Southampton University – his thoughts, plus what he said at the meeting itself are here: darksidechaplaincy

Dad, who lives in BBC Solent region (I don’t) says that there was extensive coverage on local news including what he thought was a good interview with Right Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, as well as pre-canned material from the University. There is a short piece of BBC web-news here: Diocese Budget puts jobs at risk. Neither of these links say what Bishop Michael apparently said on the BBC news interview which was (and I’ve got this second-hand I know) that there was still room for manoeuvre over specific posts to be cut. The only thing posted by Diocese is what I think is his opening address to the meeting: Address to Synod 28Nov09

Church Times also made a link to the comments of a youth-worker in another diocese on how this might affect other diocese decision making: funky doo

I don’t feel yet like I’m in ‘full possession of the facts’, and I’m therefore fairly cautious of coming to any firm conclusion yet about what I think – my thoughts often conflict with themselves in situations like this anyway, which doesn’t make for a healthy sleep pattern! But here are a couple of thoughts:

  • the fact that the diocese are having to make incredibly tough decisions like this is reflected in the parishes that fund it, who are probably having to make similar sorts of tough decision themselves – but there could be some health bringing in this if you are prayerful and careful about what gets cut. Do we ask the question: what can the Kingdom of God can live without? The sort of things I’m thinking about are things like room hire costs? Does it matter to the Kingdom where you meet, if it’s costing you money? Could the Diocese have had Synod meet somewhere cheaper than the Guildhall Winchester – perhaps a large church hall that could do with the income to fund their parish contribution to the diocese? And, if you agree, by extrapolation what does that ask of parishes?
  • do ordinary folk in a parish pew know what the dreaded “parish share” contributes to, especially if they don’t attend the equally dreaded “annual parochial meeting” – our vicar last year made a point (if I remember correctly) to explain what sort of things our parish share contributes to, but I suspect that less than one third of our regular congregations were there to here him say it. People who might feel that certain areas of ministry are important, and want to contribute accordingly, might be more willing to contribute to the leadership and funding of their church if they knew what was needed. There may be two follow up thoughts here: (a) people need to understand why it is important to attend annual parish meetings – they won’t necessarily know what’s happening or planned if they don’t, even if that means sacrificing for one night a year, another activity; (b) in our media crazy world, communication is poor – but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying, therefore we should communicate important things by as many means as possible, and read or listen clearly and with open minds to what is ‘said’ to us.
  • if we don’t contribute (in time and money) as much as we can afford to the Kingdom of God (and that should in large part surely be the church you belong to, otherwise why belong to it) we can not complain if those who administer the budgets we fund, are forced to cut some of the activities we support! I was deeply impressed by my placement parish when their PCC were the first to review their giving during a Giving in Grace campaign THIS year, and honestly tell their parish how much (in % terms) they could increase it by (I think it was averaged over the number of members of PCC). Again by extrapolation, perhaps Synod members could publicly commit to increasing their own individual giving by the amount they want each parish to increase their parish share by, and so on down the line? It’s called integrity and it needs to be visible, even if anonymised from the individual.

I think that’s it for now, and I’m not sure where it gets us, but it might just be food for thought. In the mean time please pray for our Bishop (who’s about to become a one man band, as his suffragans have both been promoted), our Synodical structure, those affected by yesterday’s decisions but most of all, for ourselves, and the decisions we make. Because that’s where the buck stops!

Values, Vision… and Elephants!

If there was an elephant in the foreground you wouldn't see it because you're moving in the dark (a few minutes later there were about a dozen of them - Mapungubwe 2006!)
If there were elephants in the foreground you wouldn't see them if you were moving in the dark (A few minutes later there were! Mapungubwe 2006)

I had my first adventure into the life of our Parochial Church Council earlier this month. This was something I’d avoided in church life for the last 22 years – my only previous experience is as a co-opted youth member at Minstead in the 1980s (at the delicate age of 17/18!)

Now obviously this isn’t the sort of meeting  shall share generally on the blog, but we had a guest speaker who I want to plug, because he was excellent, and I really hope that as a church we make use of some of what he shared with us. As we in St. Peter’s work at making sure that what was shared with us isn’t wasted, could this help others? I’m sure it can – I particularly thought of my placement parish at All Saints in Basingstoke whilst I listened to him, but also of our Mothers’ Union activities in the diocese. So there’s a bit of an outline and some (scary) thoughts below:

Revd Lawrence Gamlen is a Regional Leadership Development Adviser with CPAS (the Church Pastoral Aid Society). Revd Gamlen was talking to us about how we should seek to identify the values that St. Peter’s holds, and wants to hold, as part of the process of working out how to “do church” in Yateley. What impressed me most was the lack of jargon he used and his clear presentation using a living example full of hope; when he finished I felt this was something we could put into practice.

Without wishing to steal all his talk, he made clear for me at least, some the confusion I had developed here:  Wording a Vision He showed us clearly why a church (or other Christian community) needs to

  • understand its identity (part of that is being CofE – in our case – and thus part of the “established” church with lines of authority and accountability that need to be accepted, but it also requires an understanding of what is unique to the specific church, the community and the circumstances of the time in which you operate). From a clear understanding of identity come
  • purpose – and understanding of why you exist as a church in the areas of worship, fellowship, mission and faith
  • values – what are going to be the characteristics of how you achieve your purpose and display your identity, thus foundational to getting everything else done.

I think the plan is that if you have a clear understanding of these three (identity, purpose and values), an understanding of what your vision (which Lawrence described as being ‘that which God already sees for you’) for the future should result relatively easily from the purpose, and feed your strategic and action plans as well as your review process.

Lawrence got us to think about the question “how do we do things round here?” and slightly more obliquely the question “does the way we do things meet Jesus’ expectations?” If we are doing things in ways which mean we can’t answer ‘yes’ to the second question, but this hasn’t been acknowledged, then the chances are there are are ‘elephants in the room’: things that haven’t been got out into the open, but which need to be acknowledged and set aside as inappropriate.

All this, and the business meeting that followed, left me with much to think about:

The purely human response is to run scared and wonder if its all worth the hard work, but I know if we don’t make the effort to do these things the effort we make Sunday by Sunday to live and preach the gospel of Jesus, is completely wasted. We not only have to make the time to help people in church leadership become clear as to the identity, purpose, values and vision if their church (by hard and difficult debate if necessary) but then those in leadership need to reinforce these with the integrity of their example, preaching etc., by constant repetition if necessary.

The temptation I suspect is to think that we can’t bear the cost of doing it – either in time, lost motivation to current tasks, emotions or relationships (broken and/or mended) – it is certainly what worries me.

But I think the question that Revd Gamlen would ask, is “can we really bear the cost of not doing it?”….. because JESUS DID!

Will Winchester cut £1m of ministry?

The cross in the entrance of Old Alresford PlaceI feel as someone who lives and ‘ministers’ in the Diocese of Winchester that I need to make some record that, thanks to the Church Times blog (subscribers only I think) I am now aware what form of response my Diocese is making to the fact that it couldn’t meet its budget.

I’m not particularly well informed about this as I’m not on any relevant committee, but I knew we were more than a £1m in the red, and was aware from a collegue in training that there were significant reductions to facilities at our Diocesan centre at Old Alresford Place. From somewhere, and I really can’t remember where, I believe that the cuts came about because the Deaneries were permitted not to meet their parish share this year if they couldn’t afford to, or something like that.

The Church Times Blog reads:

The Diocese of Winchester is proposing huge budget cuts for 2010, which would include cutting their university chaplains, Diocesan newspaper, Comms Officer, Canon Missioner, a Schools Advisor, the number of clergy, and much more besides.

The cuts, which are to be voted on on 28 November, amount to a total £1million saving from an original budget presented in May.

There has been a strong reaction from students at the University of Southampton to the news that they could be losing their chaplain [details include a website petition, facebook group, and protest at Winchester Cathedral]…

Cribbing from the rest of the CT article:

Full details of the cuts can found… posted online here by Winchester Deanery with an explanatory note of the report here by their Deanery Chair of Finance Committee.

The proposed cuts are variously listed but include (and this is I admit a rather personal list reflecting my own training and interests)

  • The Communications Officer and the Diocesan Newsletter ‘The Vine’
  • The chaplains threatened include the chaplain to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (currently an excellent chap who I had the privilege of learning from during Reader Training)
  • All residential courses at Old Alresford Place (presumably that means my CMD on ‘storytelling’ booked for spring 2010 is about to vanish) where the staff have already been made redundant (which confirms the story of a collegue training the year behind me who discovered at her last residential that Ministry Dept staff had to try and work the heating, and do the catering for the w/e)
  • Mission grants to parishes (presumably these support bright ideas in ordinary parishes who want to extend the Kingdom of God!)

Some people I know may lose their jobs, others I know have to make the decisions that will cut those jobs and ministries they have encouraged and facilitated. And, all because it would appear from what I know that Deaneries were quite fairly asked to only contribute to the Diocese what they could afford (I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong).

I can’t help wondering, if perhaps those of us ordinary folk in pews who contribute to the active ministry of the church, with and without formal training, without financial remuneration, may become just a little more valuable (in a non-financial sense) in the months and years to come, even though we must take our share of the results of budget cuts and try and understand the necessity for them along with everyone else.

I shall be praying for what I assume is our Diocesan Synod meeting on Saturday.

Ephesians 6:10-20 – Armour of God

This term, one of my collegues and I have been nurturing a new homegroup.

Back in our Summer for our Reader Training module on Faith and Daily Life, we each had to run a 6 week study course, and after it, many of those who participated asked if they could form a permanent group.

Many of them have been involved in homegroups in the past and for various personal reasons there lives have changed to make that commitment difficult for a period of time. A particular issue was that many evening groups run on Wednesday’s in our parish and most of these people can’t meet on Wednesday’s for various perfectly good reasons (like regular clashes with other community meetings). For some it seems to be working out, for others the evening commitment isn’t right, and there is still a sense that it is a group in formation. In the long-run, with suitable leaders, or a shared pattern of leadership in place, my collegue and I will leave them to their own devices, and move on to something else.

The very first week, we gave them a taster session using some material from a series on Ephesians that St. Peter’s was working through in the summer. They asked to progress through the rest of this letter written from Rome when St. Paul was probably chained to a soldier or guard under house-arrest.

Last week we started the last chapter, but ran out of time before got to the famous ‘armour of God passage’. However, when I looked at the material again today, I decided it was very thin – the questions simply asked how we make the passage relevant today, and what our prayer life should be like. My sense is most of the group will want to get a bit closer to the text than that.

For me the only way to make the armour of a Roman soldier (on which the passage seems to be based) relevant is to understand what it is used for, and the relevance of the passage is surely to understand that spiritual warfare is something that we should all be aware of and ready for. Individually, and corporately as churches trying to connect with our communities, we must expect it to happen – which is why St. Paul puts his explanation of the armour in the context of prayer – we put the armour on through prayer.

So in a few hours of quiet this afternoon, I had a bash at writing a worksheet to help us get a bit deeper into the passage. For what it’s worth, it is attached here as a .pdf to download. If you make use of it, please help me by giving some feedback as to what works, and what doesn’t – it might help me do better another time.


Present Percussion for Christmas

My son has long been a fan of junk percussion and at Junior School played a kitchen sink to great acclaim… complete with the water running out the plughole at the end!

This however, has to be “present percussion” and features someone G and I have previously seen live at the Hexagon in Reading (many years ago now) – Dame Evelyn Glennie.

Thanks to the Church Times blog for posting the links. You can list to it in full without, but it has to be a ‘must’ download for the family for Christmas – my wonderful mother-in-law will love it!

Present Aid | presentaidunplugged

I am a collector of rather unusual Christmas music, and will try and blog about our selection nearer the festive season.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Chaos in the house

Honey on holiday in the River Barle
Honey on holiday in the River Barle

Currently I am feel more surrounded by chaos than I have for at least 11 years – that will be when we moved house to Yateley in 1998!

The builders are working hard, all the walls are prepared for plastering, and the plasterers themselves appear to have nearly finished in Cs extended bedroom, and we’ve started working out how the landscaping at the front of the house will work (for which read, which bits will be paved, which gravel!)

Dog and I are confined to the kitchen dining room during the day. Sunday’s All Age talk drafts litter the table (the Church as Bride of Christ: Revelation 21:1-5) along with the tiles catalogue etc. Everytime a workman moves through the lounge to go upstairs (on the otherside of the glass door) the doors bang in the draft from the open front door, and the dog goes berserk. Even our favourite field is in chaos: men have torn out the old barbed wire and left it lieing around while they re-fence – will there be stock let out there afterwards? Honey, with all this going on, is therefore going away next Monday for a few days break in the New Forest with Dad.

The front door is the biggest nuiscance – firstly it didn’t come with the rest of the windows, then it came – with a crack, but no letterbox. Neither builder, nor double-glazing supplier are best impressed with the manufacturer who was meant to make to order! Otherwise everything is great – I look forward to all the new plumbing, tiles and electrics being fully fitted.

I have had to postpone the last assignment of Reader Training – I am grateful to our tutor for today agreeing extra time for me: there is simply no space, physical or mental to put together a reflection on the formation of my ministry over the last three years. The new hand-in date is 18th December.

Hopefully next week there will be enough space in life to blog something a little more useful and reflective.

Reflecting on Isaiah 2:1-5

Part of the Mothers' Union Diocesan Banner in Winchester CathedralBeen a bit creative this week:wrote a reflection and a short act of confession and commitment based on Isaiah 2:1-5

I used them today as part of Mothers’ Union Monthly Service in the Epiphany Chapel of Winchester Cathedral.

Was reasonably pleased with how they felt as part of a worship service, so they’re here as a .pdf if you want a look: Isaiah 2 v1-5 – Reflection and Act of Confession and Commitment

What a difference a week makes

Obviously it wasn’t sensible to advertise our absense in advance, but we actually got away from the builders completely last week by going to Withypool on Exmoor. We spent the week at Bridge Cottage, literally on the banks of the Barle.

This is the fourth cottage we’ve stayed in around Withypool since we were married, and actually my 5th cottage as I’d previously been with my parents! Jake is still running the bar at the Royal Oak 21 years after I first went there… though he was on holiday this year, and was missed! (The Royal Oak is totally recommended, but you have to be able to cope with the hunting/shooting/fishing lifestyle, on the working end of which I grew up, so no problems for me!)

Pinkney Pond, source of the River Barle near Simonsbath
Pinkney Pond near Simonsbath - a headwater of the River Barle

It took a few days to wind down, and then just as I had, it was time to come home. However we had some really good family time. We took a Sunday ramble round Withypool hill as usual, spent a day at Porlock Weir (travelling via the rather exciting Worthy Toll Road), another walking from a layby west of Simonsbath to the source of the Barle, and significant amounts of time sitting around. It’s amazing how fire lighting can become a competative family activity – and I’d taken the last of those chestnuts with me which we toasted, along with marsh mallows for nommish puddings. We saw several Buzzards, Snipe, Curlew and three groups of Red Deer during our various rambles. Also, since it was largely mild, quite a lot of Red Admiral Butterflies – impressive given the date.

On the way home we visited lovely friends in their tiny retirement cottage in Tiverton where she is almost avoiding heavy involvement in Mothers’ Union, and he (retired from parish ministry in Southampton) is making the most wonderful furniture to fit the rather special nooks and crannies of the house… including all the kitchen cupboards, shelves, bookshelves… I think I need to go repent the sin of envy again.

It was good to get away and I think I feel better for it, but it really wasn’t long enough – a week never is for me. I didn’t read a lot, just sat and watch the river or fire depending on the time of day. Except for Trevor Dennis’s “Three faces of Christ” which was wonderful. I can forsee making use of it on Christmas morning and in a few other places beside. G read “The Shack” as well, and commented that possibly the former could have inspired the latter, as some of the imagery (God up to her elbows in flour baking) is very similar.


Here at home all the internal walls came down, the windows went in and the new floor was laid! And Virgin Media managed to leave us without any form of communication which wasn’t rectified until this Monday! Not even the TV worked when we got home! To say we were cross was an understatement, but “Lee” has worked hard to get it all sorted out this week… and now just needs to finish fixing the neighbours set up!

This week is just mad here, with the plumber and electrician all working and the house constantly being wandered through. I’m having to take the dog everywhere with me, else she wouldn’t be safe. Walls going up, is easily as noisy as the ones that have come down, the nail gun is just plain scary, and I know more about wiring and how radiators are fitted than I thought possible.

And the biggest news – ALL the builders and contractors work will be finished by the end of the month! Then the real work starts… (she says reaching for a Homebase colour chart!)