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St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

The Website for St George’s Church, Waterlooville and its Parish Magazine St George’s News

Summer 2019 issue

From the Vicar, Fr Dr Colin Lawlor

Dear Friends,

We are truly blessed at St George’s to have a large number of dedicated volunteers who help in so many aspects of our church life. In the context of what I am about to write I would like to particularly thank our Social and Fundraising sub-committee who, aware of the financial pressures that we find ourselves under, have sought to find new and innovative ways to raise funds for the church; including offering the possibility for visitors to the church to make donations by ‘text giving’, or by the use of our new card reader. These ideas will become increasingly important as we, as a society, begin to rely less on cash.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who work so hard to raise funds so that we can function as a church, seeking to bring others to Christ through our mission to the wider community, whilst maintaining the fabric of our church plant for the benefit of ourselves and future generations. And in what follows I want to pick up on some of these themes.

Whilst St George’s has had a tradition of being financially healthy, over the past few years this has begun to become increasingly challenging as the gap between income and expenditure narrowed. Those on the electoral role or who were present at the last Parish AGM will be aware that last year expenditure exceeded income.

There are a number of reasons why this has occurred. Firstly, some core costs have risen at a greater rate than inflation. Secondly, regular planned giving income from members of the congregation has fallen, largely as a result of people moving away, or coming to the end of their earthly life.

Shortly after I arrived in the parish it became apparent that the projected situation for 2019-2020 presented us with an even more disturbing prospect. We are truly blessed at St George’s that in Dawn Trimby we have a treasurer with professional skill and acumen in the field of finance, and we owe her a huge debt of gratitude. It was thanks to Dawn’s meticulous budget planning that the PCC became aware of the potential size of the projected budget deficit for the current year. The Fabric and Finance Committee, along with the PCC took a detailed look at the budget to see where savings could be made, whilst seeking to ensure that the core activities of the church were not drastically affected. Thanks to their hard work and diligence the original projected deficit was substantially reduced. However, the prospect of a significant deficit remains. The only way this gap can be breached is by dipping into our reserves. Currently our reserves are being depleted at the rate of £1000 per month.

Clearly this cannot be allowed to continue, our reserves are, after all, finite.

As intimated earlier, we also have a responsibility as a church to maintain the fabric of the plant and to meet the physical needs of our present and future congregations. We are fortunate that much of the day to day running costs have been minimised by a team of volunteers who tackle grounds and building maintenance, often incurring personal expense.

In recent months the PCC has established a new ‘Mission and Stewardship’ subcommittee chaired by myself. The aim of this sub-committee is to tackle the longer-term issues of Stewardship in its widest sense, and mission. It is our Christian calling to make disciples of all people (Matthew 28:19). On a more local level it is also vital to continue to make St George’s viable as a worshipping community.

However, the situation we find ourselves in is more immediate. It is vital that we find a way to plug the gap between income and expenditure, both to stop the drain on our reserves and so that we can continue as a community of faith, committed to outreach and service to our community. We also need to ensure that we are mindful of current and future needs with respect to the fabric. We know that we need to ensure the maintenance of our aging heating system. In due course we will need to replace this (ideally moving the system into the church rather than the hall where its current placing results in a 30% loss in efficiency, costing money and giving unsatisfactory performance). The cost of a new boiler would be something in the region of £20,000.

We would like to upgrade our sound system.

We would like to provide better access for those who are wheelchair users and those who are less mobile. The existing ramp has created some health and safety issues, and does cause difficulty for those with walking aids. The very appearance of the ramp does not improve the ‘welcoming face’ of St George’s.

You might be surprised that at this point I have not mentioned that old staple of church fabric problems – the roof! Well, the roof is leaking and will need attending to at some point, although this is not an immediate priority.

Finally, we would like to provide funds for mission and outreach, which will ensure the future viability of St George’s.

Can you help?

We have delayed holding this year’s gift day due the original date conflicting with the Bishop’s Lent Appeal. The date for the Gift Day is now set for Sunday 15th September. This is one way in which a donation can be made to assist with our current fiscal position.

Do you make a regular contribution via the Parish Giving Scheme? This is a very helpful mechanism which enables us to plan ahead with more certainty. If you are a tax payer and ‘Gift Aid’, the Parish Giving Scheme ensures that the money reclaimed from the government arrives more promptly. If you would like to find out more then please speak to David Cavey.

Are you in a position to consider giving more? Ultimately our future viability is largely dependent on regular planned giving.

Do you have any good ideas for fundraising activities? If so do please let us know so that we can pass them on to our Social and Fundraising sub-committee.

Whilst hoping that this, rather long epistle, will bear fruit, I would want to be clear as your pastor and priest, that no one should feel pressurised into giving more than they can afford. For some what might appear to be a small amount is, in fact, very substantial. Our Lord is very clear on this point when he reflects upon what is commonly referred to as ‘the widows mite’ (Luke 21:1-4). At the heart of all that we do is love of God and of neighbour.

I fear that in this letter I might sound a little bit like the Prophet Hosea, who is often referred to as the ‘Prophet of Doom’. But I am also reminded that in Hosea’s prophecy there is also a great deal about hope; and we have much to be hopeful, and thankful, for:

We have a strong sense of church fellowship with many active and vibrant organisations.

We are a pastoral church, where love of neighbour in its widest sense is valued.

We are a prayerful church.

We are a church where the gospel is preached and proclaimed.

We are a welcoming church.

And for all this, we give thanks!

With love and prayers

Fr Colin