St James’s has started a process of planning for the future.
Bishop Ian is encouraging all Episcopalian Churches to think about the future. What kind of church do we want to have in five years’ time? In ten years time? And what do we need to change now to achieve those goals?
At St James’, this is a pertinent question as we the way things are, we don’t have the resources to still be here in five years’ time without changing something.
The congregation held a meeting, possibly the first of a number of such meetings, where we discussed the financial problems and considered proposals for securing St James’ future. From this we can then work out a strategy and a mission plan to be the church God needs us to be in Dollar, the start of our five year plan.
A document outlining the first steps (Financial Security) of our mission strategy can be found here
As part of that consultation, a form was given out for members to return voting for their preferred option.
Following the return of the feedback forms, we now have some idea of what direction the congregation would like us take.
Firstly, we asked if people thought that simply closing the church was the preferred option. This was not an option favoured by any of the respondents to the survey. It remains a possibility in the future if we actually do run out of money, but it is not something that we would deliberately take steps towards at the current time. Indeed, we cannot see a scenario where it would make sense. We have spent a lot on refurbishing half of the roof. The remaining money from the Roof Appeal is ring-fenced within our accounts with the intention that it will be used in time to complete the work. However, the Vestry is taking a cautious approach about spending such a significant extra amount of money on the church until we are clear on the direction that we wish to take for the future.
The second option was to save on costs by not having a Rector.
At the moment, this is academic, as we have a Rector, and the Vestry has no intention of making him redundant. But theoretically, if the current Rector were to move on, twenty-eight people favoured not replacing him. The Rector’s stipend is, by some margin, the greatest outgoing we have. Without a Rector, we would have to source occasional priestly ministry and have some in-house provision of lay-led services unless the Rectory could be offered to a retired clergyman who would look after us in exchange. This is known as a House-for-Duty arrangement and must be agreed upon with the Diocese. This may be part of our strategy and solution but not our whole approach. We will also look to adopting other solutions as well, as outlined below.
We sought as a supplementary question the congregation’s views on selling the Rectory. Whilst a significant majority supported this, it turns out not to be as straightforward as we thought. We could only sell the proceeds of the sale of the current Rectory on a new Rectory without permission from the Buildings Committee, which would be unlikely to be forthcoming. We may be able to buy a cheaper house and use the surplus on some restoration work, but this cannot be guaranteed. The consensus on the Vestry is that we will keep the Rectory for the moment, although this also means that we will need to find funds to undertake repairs and upgrades on the building.
The third option was to form a linked charge with another Episcopalian congregation. This was favoured by 27 people. We have had discussions with other Charges about this, but at the moment, we feel that the alignment is not feasible. Fundamental to this is that the combined resources of the Churches concerned are still insufficient to pay for a full-time Rector in the long run. We will continue to monitor and assess the situation, looking for ways that this might be accomplished.
The final option was to share resources with a church from a different denomination or possibly go into full partnership with them. This is less supported; only a third of people support this in any form, with a few more people happy to see some sharing but not forming a full Ecumenical Partnership. There have been mixed reactions and worries from both the St James and the Parish Church congregations about being ‘forced’ into sharing a single church. We intend to continue the Pew Sharing experiment, which may bring the two congregations closer together. However, we also need to monitor it and be clear about why we are doing it and what we hope to get from it. Forming a full partnership would take more years for such a partnership to come to fruition than we have money to fund a full-time Rector. But it would almost certainly be wholly dependent on the success, or otherwise, of our experience of sharing resources in the first place. This is why our limited steps so far need to be continued and the outcomes considered with due care and attention.
So – Where are we going?
There is no plan to close the church.
Even if one of the options bore fruit, such as forming a linkage with
another church, it’s unlikely that this would be a sensible option.
We expect to be able to save money by reducing costs.
There is, however, no time or deadline for this.
We will not be selling the Rectory.
We are not currently pursuing a formal linkage with another Episcopalian charge, although we will monitor this as a possibility. We will consider anything the Diocese suggests.
We will seek closer ties with the Kirk.
But this does not necessarily mean a formal linkage. We are to continue to explore synchronicities
with the Parish Church, which may – but not certainly – lead to formalising ties.