Job fears ease as worshippers dig deep

A CASH shortfall which sparked fears of a vicar recruitment freeze in Suffolk has been staved off after worshippers gave a record £5.1million on the collection plate, it has emerged.

By John Howard

A CASH shortfall which sparked fears of a vicar recruitment freeze in Suffolk has been staved off after worshippers gave a record £5.1million on the collection plate, it has emerged.

Warnings were issued late last year by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Right Reverend Richard Lewis, that the diocese was facing a significant budget deficit.

He wrote a letter which was read out at every parish church in the county - but it emerged yesterday that worshippers have dug deep to raise more cash, and prevent a potential freeze on employing new clergy.


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Last night, Nick Clarke, a spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: “The bottom line is that this is good news and the churchgoers of the county responded to the bishop's letter in November.

“Whilst it is slightly disappointing that we didn't do better than 95% of the parish share, some of the potential consequences of a significant shortfall have disappeared. One of those would be the freeze on recruitment of vicars.”

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He explained that when the bishop wrote his letter in November the church was facing a shortfall of £400,000, but that the generosity of churchgoers meant it is now “considerably less than that”.

Draft, unaudited accounts, presented to the Diocesan Board of Finance last night , showed that £5,101,769 was given to support the work of the Church of England across the county and beyond its boundaries last year.

This is a 6% increase, or nearly £300,000 more, on the previous year.

In Bishop Richard's letter, he asked worshippers to consider making an additional contribution to support those parishes that simply could not afford to pay.

Canon Jim Pendorf, the parish resources adviser, said: “This abundantly demonstrates the steadily increasing commitment of the 20,000 regular members of our parishes to fund the whole mission of the church.

“It represents a 6% rise on the 2004 total of £4,804,018. The extraordinary sum almost exactly matches the cost of paying and housing Suffolk's 140 clergy.”

The £5.1m total represents 95% of the parish share requested as part of the 2005 budget, which was approved by parish representatives at the church's parliament, the Diocesan Synod, in November 2004.

The parish share is the money given by worshippers to the diocese, most of which is used to pay for the clergy. The money is raised in many parishes through giving on Sundays and fundraising events.

There are 450 parishes in the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, attended by 19,000 regular church members.

More than 70% of the diocesan budget is spent in Suffolk's parishes, paying clergy salaries, pension contributions, national insurance, council tax payments and providing housing and other financial support.

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