Update from the
Bishops: finances, resources and Diocesan Vision
We realise that this is an extremely busy time for us all as the Church,
like the rest of the country, makes these first, tentative steps out of
lockdown. Thank you again for all that you have done, especially for your
creative ministry and mission across our communities over this
Following last month’s Bishop’s Council meeting, we wanted to provide you
all with a further update on finances and resources. There is barely a
sector, industry, or household that remains wholly unaffected by the
pandemic. The daily headline figures from the Government - both health
and economic-related - make for sobering reading. Away from the bald
statistics, they are borne out on a local, personal level. The fact that,
during this time, you have all ensured that this Diocese continues to
serve, help, and reach all of our communities, even while our buildings
have been closed, has been a real blessing.
This has been an enormously challenging period, and difficult decisions
lie ahead. In these coming months, as we aim to put the Diocese on a
secure footing for the future, we will also look in tandem at our vision
and missional priorities. Those do not require reinvention, but we intend
to go through a process where we reconsider and refine our priorities and
focus, to ensure that our mission strategy remains at the core of all
that we do.
With our churches, alongside businesses, shops, schools, and high
streets, starting to ease out of lockdown, we are continuing to adapt and
plan for our new situation. The Diocesan Office at Wolvesey remains
closed but we have begun a phased reopening of Old Alresford Place,
incorporating the necessary health precautions.
In previous updates, we have detailed the short-term measures we took to
mitigate the financial shock of the past three months, including the use
of the government furlough scheme. Approval recently came through from
the DBF’s bank to provide an emergency COVID-19 loan, which has shored up
our cashflow in the short term. We are now in a place where a number of
staff have returned from furlough, and our curates are also back at work.
As we said in our recent letter regarding Common Mission Fund, we are hugely
appreciative of the efforts that many parishes have made in ensuring that
CMF continues to be paid. Parish finances remain highly uncertain,
especially for those reliant on income from activities outside of
congregational giving, with social distancing still in place. However,
for the Diocese - as is the case across almost the entire country -
COVID-19 will have a lasting, economic impact. We must ensure that we
protect our longer-term financial stability.
The Diocesan Resilience Taskforce (DRT), chaired by Bishop Debbie, was
set up early in lockdown. It was asked to look at costs across the
Diocese, and recently gave its first report to Bishop’s Council.
Ultimately, it will be for the DBF and Bishop’s Council together to make
final decisions based on the DRT’s recommendations.
Clergy vacancies will remain frozen for the time being as the DRT, along
with the rest of the Bishop’s Staff Team, assesses the context for our
future deployment. This will be discussed at the joint meeting of the
Archdeaconry Mission and Pastoral Committees in September, involving
Deanery Lay Chairs, Area Deans, and their Assistants.
In terms of the Diocesan Offices and staff, all new hire processes have
similarly been put on hold, and immediate savings have been made through
the furlough scheme and the deferment of planned repairs and maintenance.
Again, however, we must look beyond the here and now and, over the
summer, we will be looking at implementing further savings. As part of
this, a review of diocesan office facilities is being undertaken.
We recognise that there is much uncertainty at present, and that further
uncertainty lies ahead. Although this may at times try our faith, we know
that God is with us and has provided for us all that we need. We hope
that this update goes some way towards showing the careful, considered
steps that are being taken in planning for the future.
With our continued prayers for you,
+Tim, +David, +Debbie