26th May 2023

  MADELEINE DAVIES reports for the Church Times.
  (Edited version follows)

What if something happens (or doesn't)

Launde Minster Community is launched in Leicester

  if we can't pay the Parish Share


"We cannot, in good conscience, put our heads in the sand and
hope that more of the same is the answer," Bishop of Leicester says"
A "PERFECT STORM" of declining church attendance, reduced giving,
and stretched church leaders..."

Canon Stuart Burns was speaking in response to questions
about the formation of Minster Communities in the diocese,
the first of which was launched at the end of last month

The Community brings together eight benefices comprising 24 parishes
(35 churches) that have committed to collaborate in mission and
to offer their resources.

Launde is the first of 20 to 25 MCs expected to be formed in the
diocese by 2026, incorporating all 234 parishes.

Feedback from PCCs in the area has highlighted a tension between
parishes' desire for the answers to practical questions around provision
of the eucharist and the allocation of stipendiary posts.

PCCs have raised concerns about whether a proposed doubling of giving,
necessary to fund four stipendiary posts, can be achieved,
given small congregations.

While each Minster Community will have an ordained Oversight Minister,
the appointed minister for individual churches may be lay or ordained,
stipendiary or non-stipendiary.

The number of full-time stipendiary posts in the diocese is expected
to fall by 20 per cent to 80 by 2026.
Not all of the 80 posts will be filled by clergy.
The plan was voted through by the Diocesan Synod in October 2021,
with 72 per cent in favour.

Most of the diocese's churches had no children who attended on a
regular basis, he said (Bishop Snow).

Leicester faces financial challenges mirrored across the Church.
In a film on the diocesan website, Bishop Snow reported a gap of
"£1.5 million, maybe even £2 million" between parish-share contributions
and the cost of parish ministry.

A document produced by a working group comprising clergy and laity
in the deanery noted that the parish-share contributions amounted to
approximately £110,000 a year,
while the "desired target for supporting ministry in a Minster Community"
is around £250,000 a year.

It said that most of the parishes had a small membership and congregation,
and that no parish or benefice was currently forecasting a contribution
that fully covered the cost of one member of clergy.

But it suggested that, if the average amount donated by regular givers
could be doubled to £10 per person per week and the amount was given
in its entirety to parish contribution, the community could support
four stipendiary posts.

"With the best will in the world we cannot see how the cost of three,
let alone four, stipendiary posts can be raised," one PCC wrote.
"All the regular congregation are as generous as they are able to be."

Another wrote "We are very concerned that we will not be able to commit
to the financial side of the Minster Community, and what will happen
if we cannot."

"There is a sense from all communication received from the Diocese . . .
that the PCC are being obstructive, unwilling and ungenerous in
the money and time we give," one wrote.

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