Saturday, 28 November 2009

Cutbacks contribute to impression of ‘dying and divided church’

The lopsided church of St Vincent has stood in the village of Littlebourne since the 13th century, in the diocese of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Its 87 regular worshippers, mostly retired or nearing retirement, managed to raise £50,000 last year through coffee mornings and cake sales. Of that, more than £34,000 went to the diocese to help to pay for clergy and clergy pensions.

The ten worshippers in the neighbouring church of Stodmarsh, also under the cure of the Rev John Allan, raised nearly £5,000, of which a quarter went to the diocese. The other two parishes in the benefice, Ickham and Wickhambreaux, with only 35 worshippers between them, raised £25,000 and contributed £11,000 in quota.

It costs about £40,000 a year to “run” a stipendiary parish priest in the Church of England. As the combined quota of the four parishes came to more than £50,000, worshippers assumed that when Mr Allan announced that he had to retire next January because of ill health, they would be given a replacement. But instead, they claim that they have been advised that even if they raised £1 million, they would not get another full-time priest.

They are to be given instead a “house-for-duty” priest, an unpaid part-timer. In return for free accommodation in the vicarage, he will work three days a week. Read more
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