Churchgoers urged to dig deeper

THE Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is pleading with Suffolk's 22,000 churchgoers to give more money after it was revealed that the county's Christians are among the least generous in the country.

THE Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is pleading with Suffolk's 22,000 churchgoers to give more money after it was revealed that the county's Christians are among the least generous in the country.

The message to worshippers is that if they fail to come up with more money then the Church's work would have to reduced, and clergy could be lost.

The Rt Rev Richard Lewis has revealed that he will be reviewing how much money he gives to the Church and wants others to follow his example.

He said: "In each generation the people of God are called to renew their commitment to Christ and to the work of his church.

"It is no different for our time, although the challenge is in some ways greater than it has been for our predecessors. In simple terms the costs have grown and much of the cushioning of historical endowments has declined.

"We therefore need to review our personal levels of giving. It is something that I am doing and I ask you to join me.''

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His comments come as statistics show that Suffolk churchgoers give an average of £5.53 a week. In the Chelmsford Diocese, which covers the whole of Essex and part of London, people give an average of £7.10 a week.

In the Peterborough diocese, £6.68 is given and in the Ely diocese, £6.52. Those less generous than Suffolk people were Christians from Hereford, Chester, Salisbury and Lincoln dioceses.

The issues are highlighted in this month's East Anglican, the diocese's monthly newsletter.

But some Christians argue that many people continue to earn far less than worshippers in neighbouring Essex, and cannot afford to give as much.

Father Leslie Hipkins, a retired parish priest who used to care for five villages near Halesworth, said: "In my own experience people have always given as much as they can afford, based on their ability to pay.

"To compare this diocese with others is very difficult. North Suffolk is not rich commuter territory, unlike parts of Essex."

Church officials said the calculations have been worked out based on a complicated formula for the average salary in each diocese.

Nick Clarke, director of communications for the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: "Presently St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is dangerously near the bottom of the Church of England generosity league table.

"Suffolk was ranked 39th out of 43 dioceses in a recent survey of weekly average giving by members of the Church.

"During the next three or four years central funding from the Church will dwindle to zero for Suffolk and we need to be self financing. We are also deemed to be affluent and need to contribute towards the work of other dioceses. We really do need to look again at our giving."

A video called "It begins with me" will be distributed to all parishes later this month and underlines the Rt Rev Lewis's request for all the 22,000 church members in the diocese to review their levels of giving. The video, filmed by Suffolk clergyman the Rev Nigel Hartley, will be accompanied by a new letter from the Bishop, which asks parishes to show the video to as many people as possible.

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