Vicar's Report from the APCM on 14th May 2023
These notes formed the basis of the Vicar's Report at the APCM on Sunday 14th May 2023.
As I look back on 2022, and part of 2023, and into 2023 and beyond, how am I feeling?
Apart from being something of a gloomy pessimist by nature, I’m actually really positive about the journey God has taken us on, and the possible future that lies ahead for us. Obviously, there is the glorious future when Jesus returns to take us home, but I’m also looking at the next few years with joy and hope. It’s not all clear waters ahead, but the view to the horizon looks great. I’m going to try to report on the church in three areas, all beginning with the same letter. Last year was the letter ‘P’; this year I’m going for ‘F’ – suggestions for next year are welcome.
Our two buildings have many advantages – and disadvantages – for us. Over the next year or so, they are likely to take up a considerable amount of time and focus for us.
Let’s start with the bad news. I’m starting here, so that things can only get better.
You’ll probably be aware that for many years we have been monitoring the movement at St Thomas. The crack in the west wall is visible in historic photos, and this has been a real area of concern. Over the last year, we have had various survey and inspections, and the picture is bleak. As far as we can tell, the north-west corner is sinking into the ground, while the rest of the building isn’t. This would appear to be the root cause of all of the damage to the building.
In the short-term, we are concerned about the west window. For that reason, we’ve been told not to ring the bells, to stay out of the kitchen area, and not to use the west door. Over the coming months, we are likely to have the window boarded up, in order to protect it, and probably also having some form of scaffolding up around the west of the church.
Medium-term, we are continuing to monitor the movement, and if it increases too much, I am told that we will need to consider whether we are still able to be in the building.
The current solution would appear to be to underpin, at least, the west end of the church. This is likely to cost over £1.5 million, which is a long way beyond our means.
All of this is wrapped in caveats, possiblys, and maybes. We still don’t fully know what will be needed.
More positively at St Thomas, the old boiler room behind the chapel has been demolished, and it looks as though the damp has dried out. There only remains the final work to make good the wall.
Turning to St Andrew, there’s work planned here as well. One of the long standing goals – Goal 5 – has been to make St Andrew more flexible and usable, and for weekdays, not just on Sundays. So far, we have successfully put in a new sound system, and installed cavity wall insulation.
The next steps are to replace the heating here and we’ve started to put plans in place to do that. A few months ago, I pointed us to the proposals, and I’ve put the drawings up on the board near the side door. The broad picture is that we will be installing a new raised floor, and putting underfloor heating in. We’ll also be taking the opportunity to install ramps to make the building as accessible as possible.
Why are we doing this? First, the heating in the building is inefficient, often ineffective, and failing. Second, the use of the building has changed in the last 50 years. This week alone, on Monday we had a very successful shared activity with Cuffley Cubs and Scouts, with plenty of people upstairs enjoying refreshments, then a packed Coronation Tea Party and, on Wednesday, lots of people in for the Coffee Shop. We routinely run out of space for these kind of events. It is our growth that means we need to do this. Please would you pray for our buildings: for us to make wise decisions, to plan for the future, and to have the resources we need. Please also pray for God’s provision an additional churchwarden.
We do need to talk a little about finance. If you are already one of those who give to the church, let me begin by thanking you: without your giving, we would be unable to carry out what we currently do.
Roughly speaking, the church costs around £95,000 each year for its day-to-day running (that’s roughly £1,000/year or £83/month for each person on our Electoral Roll and Contact Database), and we receive in income roughly £72,000. For many years, this has resulted in a deficit each year, and the gradual reduction of our reserves. For 2023, we have a budgeted deficit of £18,500, and that rate of deficit will erase our reserves in the next 4-6 years. This is unsustainable. I’m hugely grateful to the PCC and Finance Committee for all their efforts to both increase income and reduce expenditure. At this point, it is our income that needs to change.
I said last year that as a parish, we rank amongst the lowest giving per-person in the diocese. Our deficit is equivalent to around £4 per person, per week. Are you able to help with that?
Last year, we sent letters and forms out to every member of the congregation and Electoral Roll. In the coming weeks, we will be following that up with an update.
Please would you pray for our finances, the Finance Committee, and the provision of a treasurer.
Our church family is one of the joys of being here.
We are a group of people who have been chosen and adopted by God, and then brought together. Like any family, we have our ups and downs but, in general, we live and work together, not for our individual good, but for the good of the whole church.
As a church family, we have been slowly growing in number over the last couple of years. Looking at the national statistics for 2021 (the most recent available), we are well above the median across the whole of the Church of England. Looking at our under 16 attendance, we are right towards the top. Our total attendance is similar to a few years, but now the under 16s make up 20-25% of that figure.
Our children’s church continues to grow and develop, with many children each Sunday. Our aim is for our young people to start to play a part in our Sunday morning services as well.
I’m really pleased that, unlike least year, it’s not so easy to say that we are in decline.
However, there are still some questions that we need to look at, particularly around the 8:30am service.
During 2022, we started two new things. The historic lectures associated with the parish were revived: the Rachel Bradgate lecture in 2022 and the Richard Coulter lecture earlier this year. They attracted attendance fairly widely, and I look forward to seeing them continue.
We also held a 4pm service in the autumn term. It was a lot of work, but it was, I think broadly successful. Do we want to do that again?
Our Monday Morning Service has continued to be a great success. Each week, the Northaw School community are invited to join us in St Thomas. It’s not just for children, although there are 100 of them there. I’d love for it to be another way for us to help build links between the school and the church.
Please pray for our church family. My regular prayers are that we would grow first in our knowledge and love of God, and that each week I would see someone new at our Sunday or Wednesday services. Will you pray that with me?
Things that don’t really fit anywhere else. The last few years have been difficult in many ways, but the future looks bright. We are growing as a family, and starting to see things happen. Our plans for St Andrew are intended to help that growth and outreach into our community.
Over the last year, my role with Northaw School has seen the appointment of a fantastic new head, and a school-church relationship that is as good as any I have every seen, and that is only growing better each week.
We have recently started to build relationships with the uniformed groups in both Cuffley and Northaw.
It is great to be able to say that we are glorifying God, growing disciples, and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.