Churches struggle to meet cash demands
Norfolk parish churches are struggling to keep pace with the growing financial demands of the diocese - and fell almost £1m short last year, it emerged on October 2.
Last year the Diocese of Norwich asked its 540 parishes to stump up £7.1m but received £6.2m, with one third of parishes unable to meet the amount asked for.
The shortfall has been growing each year and last year's figure of 22pc is a marked increase over the 9pc shortfall in 2000.
Part of the reason for the widening gap is explained by the increasing amount sought by the Norwich diocese each year, with it taking £4.2m from the parishes in 2000 compared to it asking for £7.5m this year.
The diocese blames the bulk of the increase on the fact that since 2004 dioceses have had to pay the full pension contributions for active clergy, costing the Norwich diocese more than £1.5m annually. Historically this was met by the national body.
Seventy five per cent of these contributions from parishes, called the parish share, pay the salaries, housing and pension costs of the county's 194 full-time clergy, with the rest split between ministry support, administration and other costs.
The diocese was able to make up the £911,000 shortfall last year using income from its property assets and ended the year with a £393,000 surplus, down from £544,000 in 2005.
In Narborough, near Swaffham, the parochial church council expects to fall £7,000 short of its £23,000 parish share this year.
Group rector Canon Stuart Nairn said congregations had to be willing to help churches meet these costs if they did not want further clergy cuts.
He said: "You have to cut your cloth according to your means. When I started in the diocese 31 years ago there were 360 full-time clergy and now there is only about 190."
Canon Nairn is responsible for seven churches in the Nar Valley and is also rural deacon of Breckland.
"The increased responsibility brings particular challenges. Already two services a month are taken by members of the congregation," he said.
But Diocesan secretary Canon Richard Bowett said the diocese did not see cutting full-time clergy as the solution, saying their numbers had increased by seven since 2001.
"We are looking at what sources of revenue are available to us," he said.
Diocese parish finance and resources adviser Alan Muff said it was looking at alternative sources of funding through asset management, online auctions and website donation funding.
Parish share returns are higher in Suffolk, where the diocese of St Edmunsbury and Ipswich received 95pc of the £5.6m it asked for from the parishes last year.
Story courtesy of www.edp24.co.uk