STEWARDSHIP & GIVING
AT THE PARISH CHURCH
OF SAINT MARY & SAINT NICHOLAS
II Corinthians 9: 6-15
“God loves a cheerful giver”
A Word in Advance:
The Clergy, Churchwardens, Treasurer, & Church Council
wish to express their deep gratitude for all gifts, of prayer, service, fund-raising, and money, that are made throughout the year in this church towards the work of the
Good News of Christ Jesus in our midst
This leaflet has been prepared not (in a time of recession and hardship for so many of us) to demand more, but to explain why the Church needs financial help, why it is part of our witness as Christians to provide that help, according to our means, and how it may be done most simply, efficiently, and effectively, in the service of the church, the congregation, the wider parish, and the diocese.
THE BIBLE, HISTORY & DISCIPLESHIP
1. Why Should We Give Money To The Church?
“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own do we give thee”.
(from I Chronicles 29:11-14)
It has never occurred to some people even to ask the question, they give and ask not the reason why, because they’ve always done so. But it can have escaped no one’s attention that more is being asked in recent times. Why would this be pleasing to God?
The Bible is full of references to giving and generosity. Much is about being generous to the poor – tithing the good produce of the land to those whose need was greater, leaving the edges of your fields un-harvested so the orphan and the widow could come in and collect their share. The ancient Temple in Jerusalem, and its clergy, were sustained by the offerings of those who wanted to give thanks, or say sorry for sins. The ministry of Jesus himself, and his disciples, was paid for by women who were not themselves able to join them, but supported what they were doing (Luke 8:1-3). Have you ever wondered who picked up the tab at the Last Supper? The church has never charged a penny for the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion and never will. Our church buildings, like the Temple in Jerusalem, themselves bear witness to the presence of God with Us – “Immanuel”. Sacraments, and buildings, are alike offered in a spirit of self-sacrifice, to bear witness to the love of God here and now and in our midst.
2. Why Does The Church Of England Have A Financial Problem Now?
“The Lord gave instruction that those who preach the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel”
(I Corinthians 9:14)
The Church has never received any money from the state. A lot of people think it does, but it has never been so. We have sought over the centuries to provide a church and a priest in every parish, regardless of whether they were rich or poor. Times change, and the enormous benefactions of the past (look at the board at the back of the church naming those who helped to have our church built) have slowly been used up. We have many old and expensive churches to maintain, and fewer people to help maintain them. The cost of living for everyone has risen, and so too for the clergy. If some of them are to devote their lives to their people full-time, it has to be paid for.
3. What Is The Parish Share?
“But if someone who possesses the good things of this world sees a fellow-Christian in need and withholds compassion from him,
how can it be said that the love of God dwells in him?”
(I John 3:17)
In recent times each diocese has faced the challenge of raising the stipend (i.e. salary) costs of the clergy by itself. The Church Commissioners, who manage what is left of the historic funds for the provinces of Canterbury and York, are no longer able to meet them. And within each diocese a share is allotted to each parish according to its ability to pay – the richer parishes pay out more than they receive, the poorer pay out less. But no distinction is made in clergy stipends – these are the same across the diocese, and pretty much across the whole Province, as is the housing allocation. This is so no priest need fear to move from a rich to a poor parish, nor be attracted from a poor to a rich one, just because of money. Only God, and God’s calling, need matter. At present, our parish does not pay its Parish Share in full. We are subsidised by other parishes, through the diocese.
4. What Do The Clergy Do For Our Money?
“If we have sown a spiritual crop for you, is it too much to expect from you a material harvest?”
(I Corinthians 9:11)
Speaking for our own parish priest, here is a list: preparation and taking of services, Jubilate and Fun Church services; preaching; preparing for baptisms and marriages; arranging and taking funerals; visiting the sick, housebound, and anxious; primary school worship, and visiting several times a week; making links with Age Concern, Youth Clubs, Rose Hill and Donnington Advice Centre, School governor; links with the new Oxford Academy school, especially to support staff in a time of change; monthly prayer group for key people in the community schools and churches; Churches Together; Isis House for the elderly; community coffee morning; linking local people both informally and informally; administration of the parish, preparing materials to advertise our events; finding and organising volunteers; chapter clerk to the deanery. Volunteers help with many of these things, but our parish priest is our anchor, she is our representative in the community in which we live, and pray, and have our being.
5. Yes, But What Has All This Got To Do With ME?
“Truly I tell you, anything you did for one of my brothers here, however, insignificant, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40)
The Church of England exists not just for its congregations, who by-and-large are well-served by well-trained priests, who know how to conduct worship, preach, teach, listen and care, but also for everyone else in the parish who may need them. When you leave church on a Sunday morning determined to be nicer to your colleagues at work, or feel bolder to answer next time someone asks you why you believe in God, that is mission. When the parish priest goes into a school or a care home or is even just seen cycling from one appointment to the next, that is mission. Mission means “sending out”, just as the disciples were sent out, and we too are sent out. We bear witness by being present in the community, and no one person is more obviously present as a Christian witness than the parish priest. The good fruits of this labour may be harvested many years later, and many vineyards away, but if we do not help God sow, how can he reap?
6. How Do I Know How Much To Give?
“Let your almsgiving match your means. If you have little, do not be ashamed to give the little you can afford” (Tobit 4:8)
God does not want to inflict hardships on us for the sake of his church. We all have other commitments – vocations even – to partners and children, family and friends, interests and enthusiasms, and from time to time the relief of suffering for those whose plight we see either at first hand or through the media. God means us to have “life more abundant”, not less. Maybe the simplest thing is to work out what, when accommodation, bills, taxes, living expenses and a little leisure are paid for, is left. The answer to the question “do I really need this?” is often “no”. But the question needs to be asked from time to time. There is no formula. Give according to your means.
7. Standing Orders
These are easy to set up – there is a form at the back of the church. Whether you pay income tax or not, you can make your contribution on a weekly or monthly basis directly through your bank. This means if you have no cash in your purse or wallet, can’t get to church, are unwell, away on holiday, or busy with someone else, or just feeling grumpy that day, but still want to do what you can to help, your contribution can be made and appreciated. It is hugely valuable to know what is coming in each month so that we can budget most effectively.
8. Gift Aid
You might say that for the first time in history the state, without actually giving us money, is allowing churches, along with other charities, to claim back the income tax that parishioners have already paid on their money. This means every £1 you give is worth £1.28 to us. All you have to do is sign an envelope with your name and address on. If you don’t pay income tax yourself, but someone else you live with or to whom you are close does – you might have a joint account, perhaps - if they are amenable, let them sign the form, and your donation will add to their treasure in heaven, and help us to pay our bills on earth. This applies to regular giving, Sunday giving, or one-off gifts.
9. The Plate
The weekly collection plate is the traditional form of giving in cash. We are introducing little laminated cards for those who give by standing order to put in the plate as it comes by, just pick one up at the back of the church, pop it in the plate at the collection, and your offering is carried up to the altar along with everyone else’s. Donations in the plate can also be made by Gift Aid, just put your offering in an envelope with your name and address. If you already have a standing order, but have had a windfall a part of which you wish to share, then put it in the plate and delight the treasurer.
Our circumstances change over time, and sometimes we enter the autumn years feeling flush for cash that disappears, or sail through old age with great good fortune. Wills are laborious to make, and the value of specific money gifts can vary enormously, so, if you are minded to make a contribution to the church from your estate when you have finished using it, the best thing is to leave a percentage of “the residue of your estate”, after other more personal expenses and bequests have been taken out. If you are making a will, ask your solicitor for advice about this. The proper beneficiary is “The Parochial Parish Council of the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Nicholas, Littlemore”.
11. Who Gets To Know How Much I Give?
Anything in the plate is, of course, anonymous. Standing orders are processed by the treasurer. Gift Aid envelopes have to be counted and recorded each Sunday by his deputies. It is their burden to be sworn to utter discretion, and they would not be chosen otherwise. The clergy and church wardens will never know what you give, nor will what you give affect your pastoral care, your standing in the parish, or any other contribution you might wish to make. Giving is a personal and private choice.
12. Parish & Diocesan Figures for Income & Expenditure
Ministerial costs (Parish Share) 21,000 58%
Other expenses 10,400
The Diocese (2010 accounts):
Of which Parish Share was
Of which Parochial Ministry was