Thank you Derry and John for the sketch showing in an amusing fashion the rationale for the Parish Share Scheme. Today I want to briefly, very briefly, talk about financial giving. I do so in the certain knowledge that financial giving is the topic most sane preachers least like talking about!
So before I crack on let’s just relax, take a deep breath and let go of any unfounded fears. My fear that you might all hound me out of the door and, yours that you are going to get scolded, or told off.
You may have noticed that the readings chosen for today are the epistle and gospel for our patron saint; St. Laurence. Laurence was, of course a martyr. In fact he was martyred because he took his ministry as a deacon, the ministry of serving the local community, incredibly seriously, regarding the poor as the treasure of the Church. So, in talking about, and asking each and everyone of us to consider contributing just a little, and I mean little, more, the aspiration is that we may be able to capture and, put into practice spirituality we have inherited from our patron; St. Laurence. The hope is that we will be able to do so, with ‘good cheer,’ for then we can be sure of God’s loving guidance in our mission and ministry.
I would like to put the plea, or proposed financial strategy, in concrete terms. At present our average receipt from monthly giving is £3,300. Our parish share is £42,000 per annum; which is on all measures a fair allocation. At present we rely on fund raising to meet our parish share. We would like to be in a position where our parish share can be fully paid out of monthly giving. This means we need generate around £700 extra, or 18%, per month more from regular giving, bringing our monthly giving up to around £4,000 per month.
I need to be up front and honest for a second; I hope I am always up front and honest! Payment of parish share is for me of absolute importance because it is through the parish share scheme that the costs of my ministry are covered and that we make a real contribution to the work of the wider church. Payment of parish share, therefore, speaking personally validates the phrase that we repeat each and every week in this church: ‘I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.’ The parish share pays for both ordained ministry and the world wide work, of the One, church. It is for this reason that I insisted last year that payment of parish share must be our number one priority.
But, we also wish to be a church that meets real local needs in many and diverse ways. We are a church lodged in a specific community; we exist to be a blessing to the community or, ‘Saints in Community.’ So, we need to be able to resource local mission initiatives. We need to be able to both expand our mission through the initiatives we offer and, be fully equipped to respond, in loving service, in times of crisis. We also need to invest in this most beautiful of buildings. Our hope is that all of our fund raising can be used for local mission and ministry initiatives so that God’s love and grace can be brought into people’s lives in real, material, ways; for this is the very essence of mission.
Let me finish by saying that this is already a church full of ‘cheerful givers.’ A huge number of people give generously to this church in many different ways; the church and its surround always looks stunning; thank you cleaners, flower arrangers, sacristans and, gardeners. The church sounds stunning, so thank you choristers, Owen and bell ringers. I have no idea how many cups of tea and coffee are served each year, so thank you to the hospitality team. We have a web site, pew sheet, parish news letter and Facebook page; so thank you to all involved with these aspects of our mission and ministry. At funerals and weddings we have vergers, who help make stressful days that little bit easier. So again thank you. And countless numbers are involved in what we might simply think of as good neighbourliness. The message is, and it is one that I tell to anyone in the diocese with ears to listen, that St. Laurence Winslow is a vibrant church.
With your financial help we can make it even more vibrant and dynamic serving both the wider church and the people of Winslow in Godly love and service; just as St. Laurence did. Like Laurence our call is to be saintly in community and, one of the ways we can do this is through our financial generosity. Amen.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown