Bishop's plea for more donations

A BISHOP is urging Suffolk's 23,000 regular worshippers to increase the amount of money they give, after revealing that they give less than churchgoers in the rest of the region.

A BISHOP is urging Suffolk's 23,000 regular worshippers to increase the amount of money they give, after revealing that they give less than churchgoers in the rest of the region.

His plea comes as statistics show people in Suffolk are giving less to support their church than their fellow worshippers in East Anglia, and less than the national average.

In an open letter, the Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, the Rt Rev Richard Lewis, said he plans to ask Suffolk's 23,000 regular church members to review their personal giving to the Church of England.

A recent report, Funding the Mission, called on all members to play their part in moving the mission of the Church in Suffolk forward. He hopes to encourage all worshippers to be "willing, regular and realistic givers, and to encourage communities to take responsibility for supporting their churches."

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Next month, the Bishop intends to ask his cabinet, the Bishop's Council, and members of the Board of Finance to embrace the new "giving culture'', to review their own level of giving, and to spread the message of the report that it begins with me.

He said: "My hope is that this message will spread across the diocese and in September I will ask the people of our Church to spend time in a period of prayer and renewal of their personal commitment.

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"This change of culture is not just about money. It is about what it means to be a Church in

this place at this time and it begins with me.

In the letter, the Bishop said there is no shortage of demand for the Church's services, with more than 1,000 marriages and nearly 3,300 funerals conducted in Suffolk's churches during 2001.

"We can't expect to shoulder the full financial burden on our own," he said. "We must also look to the wider community, especially since the community expects the Church to be alive and well and at the cutting edge of community life.

"If we are a Church worth having, communities will support us and we will continue to be there at the heart of those communities.''

Nick Clarke, spokesman for the diocese, said average weekly donations in 2000 in St Edmundsbury and Ipswich were £6.06 per member of the congregation, while the average for east of England dioceses was £6.55 and the national average was £6.68.

Mr Clarke said extra money would allow the Church to become more involved with youth and education, rather than being about cutbacks if more money does not come in.

He said: "This is about what more we can do, what else can we do, how we can grow and expand.''

The Bishop's comments come after two churchwardens, Ian Richardson and Michael Carroll, told how they would not be standing again this month after 22 years service between them, disillusioned with the Church of England's constant demands for money on their tiny congregation at Huntingfield, near Halesworth.

The Rev Fr Leslie Hipkins, a retired priest who worked in north Suffolk, said: "During the 11 years I was working in the Cratfield benefice, we constantly had to raise money. It was difficult, but with goodwill, it can be done. We raised tens of thousands of pounds.''

It is not the first time a Bishop has urged people to think about their giving. In 1994 the then diocesan Bishop, the Rt Rev John Dennis who earned more than £23,000 a year before tax at the time, doubled his personal giving to 10% of his disposable giving as he set a personal example in the face of a financial crisis.

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