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Support Fund Meeting for 2019
21/06/18

Each year since 2011, an annual Support Fund meeting has agreed the amount that each deanery is to pay into, or receive from, the Support Fund in the following year. Without generous giving to the Support Fund, we would be unable to continue our ministry and mission across the whole of the diocese. On Saturday 16th June in St. Peter’s Church Centre, Wellesbourne, two representatives from each of ten deaneries and one representative from one deanery gathered for the meeting to share their news, concerns and aspirations, and to agree the Support Fund payments for 2019.

Diocesan officers, the Archdeacon Pastor and Assistant Archdeacon were there to support the process and listen, as was a representative from the parishes of Warwick and Budbrooke, beneficiaries of the King Henry VIII Endowed Trust, Warwick, and Helen Simmonds, Lay Chair, elected to Chair the meeting. However, they had no vote.  Any decision was to be taken by the Deanery Representatives alone. Two Deanery guests also came to listen and support.

After excellent hospitality (cooked breakfast!) all went across to the church for Morning Prayer, led by the Revd Martin Green. The Old Testament reading was Psalm 8, and the New Testament reading was from Philippians 2: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit….let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

Then it was back to the Church Centre. As in previous years, the Deanery Representatives spent most of the rest of the morning listening to each other's presentations. We listened to and looked at thumbnail sketches of each Deanery, lots of encouraging and exciting activities and developments, concerns and difficulties too, and hopes for clergy and laity deployment in the next few years. There were lots of positive stories about mission across the deaneries. Many talked about the energy behind children and families’ ministry. Other examples of the vibrant life in the diocese included outreach work to support refugee and asylum seekers, including the provision of ESOL classes, entrepreneurial use of a church building to support social enterprises and practical support and prayer that was changing people’s lives. There were also stories of generous parish giving to projects and initiatives funded in parish-to-parish partnerships alongside ministry made possible by parish share giving via the Support Fund.  

However, the representatives also spoke of some difficult local challenges - in particular the impact on communities of large numbers of new homes, often in villages with inadequate infrastructure, and the pressures this brought as well as the opportunities for mission. Other concerns included dependence on elderly congregations, reducing attendance affecting giving, the demands of church buildings and over-stretched clergy. Interregnums presented challenges, but were also seen as opportunities. For deaneries with the poorest areas, we heard about the joys and challenges of ministry in these areas of huge diversity and deprivation.

Having listened to one another, the focus changed to 'supporting one another'. Each deanery started by suggesting next year's payment to, or from, the Support Fund. Any payments were expressed in terms of 'posts'. A 'post' is the annual cost of providing a benefice with a stipendiary priest, a vicarage, and also training current and future parish ministers (both lay and ordained). In 2018, one post amounts to £58,058. For 2019 planning purposes, an increase in this cost of up to 3% was recommended. 

The discussion however was not an easy one. Despite everything that had been heard, it was a challenge to reach an agreement that would meet the requests of all the deaneries. An increase in the central subsidy was included to offset the impacts of two specific factors: firstly the pressures on Nuneaton Deanery arising from the well above average level of vacancies; and secondly, a final reduction in support by the Warwick and Budbroke parishes as requested by the trustees of the King Henry trust. However, this was not enough to balance the bids for help with the offers of support, despite 5 successive rounds of bidding.

In order to reach a conclusion a proposal was put forward by the Chair, in line with the rules for Support Fund meetings, which achieved the required 85% support from Deanery Representatives. As well as the offset described above, the Chair’s proposal used the changes offered by two deaneries to release funds for two other deaneries where it was felt the need was greatest. If a Chair’s proposal had not been agreed by 85%, the Support Fund payments in 2019 would have been the same as in 2018. Whilst there was sadness that it was the first time that such a meeting had not finished with unanimous agreement, there was a sense of togetherness with some godly moments rather than animosity, and it was good to see an increase in the overall support for our three poorest deaneries.

The meeting concluded with the Grace, followed by a well-earned lunch.

What next? The Deanery Representatives will be reporting back to their deaneries on the outcome of the meeting, and each Deanery Synod is asked to ratify their own Support Fund payment. In the event that a Deanery Synod is unhappy about their payment, they have until 30th September to lodge an appeal with Bishop’s Council. Please pray for the Deanery Representatives and the Deanery Synod meetings during this ratification process.

This is the agreed list of payments for ratification by each Deanery Synod:

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