Magazine Articles

Various articles written for our Magazine are archived here …

November 2017

St Matthew’s needs to improve its financial position. The Vicar launches a stewardship campaign by explaining the questions and challenges we face.

At the Annual Church Meeting in April I said “we need to look at our money and giving, and we need to pay for admin support”. At the September PCC meeting we started that process.

The last few years have seen us make losses, and last year the voluntary collections decreased by £4,784. That is depressing, yet we are a church with good numbers, with children, with a choir, with lots of baptisms and weddings. We are a warm and friendly church, and we have £77,740 in reserves – so no need to be too depressed.


These are our expenses figures last year …

  • Ministry (Common Fund, service fees, clergy expenses) £33,100
  • Church expenses (cleaning, gas/elec, water/sewerage, insurance) £5,400
  • Repairs and maintenance £860 – we will have spent more this year (but the newly painted Fellowship Room and new curtains are money well spent)
  • Services (wine/wafers/candles/service sheets/musicians  £2,800 – as we have 150 services a year, this means that each service costs us £11 each
  • Churchyard £2,300
  • Fellowship Room £4,500
  • Admin £2,800 – we need to spend more, on a paid administrator to work for the two churches, five mornings a week
  • Magazine £1,500

The Common Fund

The biggest expense is Common Fund – what we pay to the Diocese of Derby. In 2017 that was £34,969 (basically £3,000 a month). St Edmund’s pay £56,846 (basically £4,750 a month). The Diocese will spend £9 million in 2017. 92% of that, £8.3 million, is people costs – there are 165 employees, 146 of whom are ministers (Vicars, rectors, curates, etc). The Diocese receives 17% of this £9 from the Church Commissioners, 21% is return on investments, £7% other, and 55% from Common Fund. The figure coming from the Church Commissioners is declining, and although we are reducing the number of clergy posts (by about 2 every year), the increase in wages and pensions means that Common Fund will continue to increase.

Each vicar receives a stipend (salary) of £26.450, but when you add National insurance, pensions, housing, etc., each Vicar costs about £47,799. Our two parishes pay £91,815 a year – and have one Vicar. We are helping to pay for clergy in the poorest parishes of Derby and in the widespread rural benefices with lots of churches and few people. The amount of Common Fund we pay is worked out with a complicated formula which takes into account the size of the parish’s worshipping community and a parish’s relative affluence. We score highly on both counts!


Our income last year makes interesting reading. Magazine income was £2,100, but the magazine only cost £1,500. The Fellowship Room cost £4,500, but income was only £2,700. Our fee income is increasing – a church wedding costs £566. The organist and verger get a payment, and for every wedding we take, the PCC earns £263 and the Diocese £193. This means that with 6 weddings in 2017 and 10 in 2018, the PCC will earn an extra £1,000. (I would like to point out the Vicar gets no extra pay for taking weddings or funerals, so please don’t think I’m coining it in!!).

Events have been a big part of our income. £5,700 in 2016, £3,000 the year before. 2017’s figure will be helped by Darley Abbey Day. I would like to get to a point where our normal expenditure is covered by our giving, and Events are an extra, either for a particular project (like curtains) or for a charity.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that we all need to look at our level of giving to the church. I sat and enjoyed a Costa Latte the other afternoon. It cost £2.45. How many lattes is our church worth? If I put a few coins in the collection plate, am I really saying that church is worth less than a cup of coffee? If I fold a £5 note and put it in a Gift Aid envelope, is it only worth two lattes? (And if Julie hasn’t put anything in, if my £5 is for both of us … we’re back to one cup of coffee again). How much do I spend on railway magazines, train trips … how does that compare with my giving to the church? What about you?

The challenge

These are questions we have got to ask, and a challenge we have got to face. David Meredith from the Stewardship team at the Diocese is coming to our next PCC meeting on Monday 20 November – PCC members, please make the effort to attend. We will need to work together to improve our financial position – and that’s before we think about the big projects (like resurfacing the car park) that we will need to spend money on in the next year or two.

It is a challenge we can meet – in Ponteland we reached the stage where we failed to pay all the parish share (their word for Common Fund) requested. We worked hard and got the weekly income up by £500. We don’t need that much here – but no church, no organisation, can survive if its members pay less than the cost of a cup of coffee (or two) a week.


January 2018

The St Matthew’s stewardship campaign is in the planning stage and we ask for your invaluable prayer support.

The PCC has had long discussions about finance. Life would be much easier if we did not have to think about money, but it makes the work of our church possible. Peter and Clive gave us a clear presentation on our current finances. They are not perilous, but our income is substantially from giving and it needs to increase. Peter told us about a successful stewardship campaign he led at Ponteland last year. David Meredith, Diocesan Finance Officer, came to the PCC with further information about church finances and about parish giving programmes.

A Stewardship Group has been set up, comprising Peter, Nic, Phil, Trevor and myself. David Meredith came to our first meeting to advise and he will continue to support and guide us. We have set out a 16 week timeline for the project. The objective is to give members of our church community clear information about church finances and the costs of maintaining this church and its ministry and to ask them to consider prayerfully what they receive from God and what they can give to the church through the grace of giving.

The stewardship group next meets on 10th January. In the meantime, please will you pray for:

Our church, sustained for nearly 200 years by the good stewardship of those who have given. Thank God for the ministry of our church and generosity of giving money, time and talents amongst us and for all Clive’s work as Treasurer.

Peter, as he leads this stewardship campaign, for his ministry at St Matthew’s and St Edmund’s and pray that we will give him our continuing support as he leads the stewardship campaign. Give him wisdom and sensitivity, as he prepares and delivers stewardship teaching and for ourselves as we think and pray about what we can give.

The PCC and the Stewardship Group in the weeks ahead, for good discussion, careful listening, and good conversations with others. Ask that we take full use of David Meredith’s offer of support and guidance throughout the campaign and for wisdom and discernment in decision making.

All those who will have important administrative tasks to carry out in the next weeks. Pray that these will not be too onerous and that this work will be recognised with appreciation.

Thank you so much for your prayers.


February 2018

St Matthew’s will launch its Stewardship Campaign on Sunday 18th March at the 10 o’clock service. Peter writes:

No one goes to church on Sunday 31st December. So how come we had 97? (And where were the extra 3?) A joint service, a joint choir – I bet no other church in Derbyshire had such good music that Sunday morning – and a lovely atmosphere. One of the congregation was a visitor, there because his mother had just died. He emailed to say it was a “fantastic captivating service”. Thank you.

No one gets married on Monday 1st January. James and Gilly did. They had booked the West Mill and asked if they could have a church wedding. I could have said “No, it’s new year’s day”. The choir could have said “No, it’s new year’s day”. We said yes, and a lovely wedding it was too. We were blessed by being there, and I have no doubt that our couple and our guests were blessed too. Thank you.

We believe that our church, our faith, is there for our village. We believe that we are there for those who are just passing through. We know that we benefit from our church and our faith, and we want to share it with others. We know that that involves work, effort, and commitment. We know that we are not called to do this work alone – as we pray at every Communion

All things come from you, and of your own do we give you.

We have challenges to face this year, and one of them is money. We have not broken even for several years, and we need to put this right. We have a building that continues to need money spent on it. We have work we need to do, and that will cost money. We have an increasing congregation for our 10 o’clock service, we have increased income from the weddings we will take, and between us God has given us all the resources we need.

All things come from you, and of your own do we give you.

On Sunday 18th March we will launch a Stewardship Campaign at the 10 o’clock service. Before then we will write to everyone on the Electoral Roll, everyone who comes regularly to church, everyone who has come for baptisms and weddings, everyone who gets this Magazine, and we will invite you to the service and to nibbles afterwards. We will talk about money, parish share, giving – and give everyone information. We will ask you to make a response over the following few weeks. Your response will be private and confidential – how can you help us in the months and years that lie ahead, what can you give?

We will ask you to make your response over Easter, and by Sunday 15th April we will have collected those responses. At the 10 o’clock service we will be able to say how we have done – I am sure we will be able to celebrate. We have our AGM after the service, and then follow it with lunch. There is so much good in the life of our church –

All things come from you, and of your own do we give you.

Please pray for this work, that we are seeking God’s will. Please get these dates in your diaries, and do your best to come. During Lent we will use a four week course called “Seasons of Giving”, and I hope we can hold two or three small groups in different houses. Would you commit to be part of that – I’ve just purchased 25 booklets, so I’d like to see them all used!

Guess what … we finish 2018 with Ben and Jenny’s wedding on Friday 28 December, and with a United Service on Sunday 30 December. May I be the first to wish you all a very Happy Christmas.


March 2018

When you start to explain what we do to someone new, you realise (a) how much we do, and (b) how complicated it is. Welcome to Caroline, our new Church Administrator. She is interviewed elsewhere in this magazine, and is the administrator for both our churches – so please welcome her and use her.

Last week I spent ages trying to put a new page on our church website – Caroline managed it within a few minutes. It’s a page on the “Churches” tab and is entitled “18 months in”. In January last year I looked at the statistics for my first six months in post, now I look at the statistics again. In St Matthew’s the figures are positive – here is one paragraph of what I wrote:

The 10 am services at St Matthew’s have seen an increase in attendance. The fortnightly communions have risen from an average of 58 to an average of 71 (perhaps slewed slightly by one communion with baptism which had 138 people). The monthly Service of the Word has risen from 48 to 51. All Age has remained static, with an average of 55 people. Kid’s Church is doing very well, but we need to work at getting them involved in All Age.

On the third Sunday of January we welcomed Miranda as new head chorister and gave Kionie her surplice – we have five young people on the front row of our choir. I have no doubt that decades ago there would have been more than five, so you could read it as a failure … or you can be very pleased we have so many (very few other churches will have five youngsters in a robed choir). Lots of families came to the service and went with their children to Kid’s Church. We could see it as a failure that they only come once a month … or be very pleased they want to come on this Third Sunday, and work on bringing them deeper into the life of the church. There is a great deal of life!

In 2017 we had four weddings at St Matthew’s. In 2018 fourteen couples have already booked. We have requests for baptisms, and will serve our community for funerals. When you see the amount of paperwork each one generates, you will know why we have employed Caroline for 15 hours a week.

For the last few years we have spent more than we have received. This is not because we have been profligate, but simply because expenses have risen faster than income. Parish Share at £38,000 is the biggest expense – the figure that we pay the Diocese. This is what pays for the Vicar’s stipend and housing and pension, plus the costs of running the organisation. We pay about £3,000 for heat and light, £3,000 for the insurance, £1,600 for the music, £12,500 to maintain our church, churchyard and Fellowship Room (and that’s without taking big projects like car park re-surfacing into account). And so it goes on.

In order to cover our costs, we need to increase the income. More wedding fees will help, but the vast majority of our income is what is given by people who come to church, and those who value it. We need people to give an additional £9,000 a year.

I will repeat that, we need to increase our giving by £9,000 a year. Your reaction might be … we’ll never manage it. Let’s break it down. There are 52 Sundays a year – so we need an additional £173 a week. If we have about 65 people through church most Sundays (and I think that is a low estimate), we need an additional £2.66 per person. Obviously it isn’t that simple – some of those 65 are children – but we are not talking about a fortune when it’s divided up between us.

This coming Sunday I have the afternoon off, and Julie and I are going to Shropshire to see her cousin and his wife. That’s 180 miles drive which, if I was charging 20 p a mile, would cost £36. Then add £50 for our half of a pub supper (depending how much she drinks), £30 for the fares on the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway (you knew I wasn’t just going to see her family), and that’s £116 – before I spend any money in the railway café and bookshop.

Can I really say to God that I can’t afford another fiver a week, when I can afford £116 for an afternoon chasing trains (sorry, being nice to the family)?

On Sunday 18 March we will launch our Stewardship Campaign at the 10 o’clock service. Before then I will write a lot of letters, inviting you to come. (I did say last month we would include individual letters to all those who get the magazine. I hadn’t realised how many of those there were … please treat this as your letter of invitation (or contact us and ask for a letter)).

When you get your letter about Stewardship, if we have spelt your name wrong, married you to the wrong person, or even (which is what I dread) if I send the letter to someone who has died, please, please, please, do not take offence. If you hear someone else is upset, please do your best to apologise on my behalf. Let me or Caroline know what is wrong, and we will do our best to change it. We did a Stewardship Campaign in my last parish and one morning my Administrator was almost in tears  – she’d been given an earful by someone who had received a mis-spelt letter, another earful by someone who was upset they hadn’t received a letter at all, and a third earful by someone who didn’t think the church should be asking for money. At that point we almost gave up (in fact, we went out for coffee and cake).

On Sunday 18 March, we have some material prepared, we will try (in the service and over coffee afterwards) to explain where the money goes, and we will ask you (over the next few weeks) to make your response. We want people to use direct debits to give if at all possible, but regular cash donations are welcome, and we want to encourage Gift Aid so we can be as tax efficient as possible. Again, the practicalities will be explained.

On Sunday 15 April we will tell everyone how much people have pledged, and I hope and pray we will know we are on a firm financial basis. There will be demands as we go forward – we are well aware that the church boiler will not last for ever – but I believe we are in a good position and can meet the challenges.

I have asked the choir to learn a new anthem. It was one we sang regularly in Ponteland, and the music is by a lovely chap called David Ogden (who used to direct one of the choirs our Hannah sang in). The words are by St Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now but yours

No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.

Yours are the eyes with which he sees,

Yours are the feet with which he walks,

Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.