Parishes urged to dig deeper for Church

By John HowardReligious Affairs CorrespondentWORSHIPPERS are expected to be asked to find an extra £250,000 next year as a diocese sets its budget for 2006.

By John Howard

Religious Affairs Correspondent

WORSHIPPERS are expected to be asked to find an extra £250,000 next year as a diocese sets its budget for 2006.

Senior diocesan officials want to see churchgoers in Suffolk increase their weekly giving from £5.84 a person to £7.49, in line with national giving levels.

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The St Edmundsbury and Ipswich diocesan synod met at the weekend and debated asking churchgoers to dig even deeper to fund the Church in Suffolk.

Its draft budget for 2006 has been set at £5,610,475, an increase of £256,875 on last year, but a final decision will not be taken until the synod meets again in November.

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Senior officials also indicated there would be further rises ahead of inflation in the coming years, forecasting rises of 4.8%, 4.86% and 4.42% between 2006 to 2008.

Michael Wilde, chairman of the Diocesan Board of Finance, said the three-year forecast sought to provide a steady and almost fixed rate of change to “parish share”, the amount worshippers contribute to the Church.

He added the board was offering to dig in to reserves to the tune of £500,000 during those three years to help ease the situation and smooth the rate at which money was being sought from churchgoers.

“The overall change in parish share for 2006 would otherwise be almost 10%. However, this medium-term plan will only be successful if, by 2008 at the latest, parishes are delivering the total sums,” warned Mr Wilde.

Last year parishes in the diocese contributed more than £4.75m, but Mr Wilde was disappointed that just over 95% of the amount set by the synod had been collected, meaning there was still a shortfall of £241,000.

He said: “I appreciate that raising sufficient sums for the work of the church in the parish is difficult for some, but possible for a great many of us.

“If only the giving of our members reached the national average £7.49 per week, then we'd have more money than we actually needed.”

Nick Clarke, spokesman for the diocese, said although not all the money needed had been raised, people in the parishes had still given record amounts to the Church.

The funding issue comes as the diocese loses £1m in support from the Church nationally, with the Church of England viewing Suffolk as a wealthier diocese that should support the work of poorer areas.

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