COVID-19 Update – Wonderful stories of increased electronic giving in parishes

8 May

  • Wonderful stories of increased electronic giving in parishes
  • Parishes to pay as much of their debt to the diocese on a timely basis
  • Important to review non-clergy work arrangements
  • Church buildings and op-shops are not permitted to re-open
  • The conversation about parish clusters and hubs is being renewed and brought forward

Again, thank you for the work you have been doing in relation to the financial and administrative affairs of your parish.

Electronic giving – We have been receiving updates from parishes which indicate that parishioners are moving to electronic giving. This is a welcome and very much appreciated tangible expression of the loving support parishioners have for their parish.

Financial Management –  We’re all in this together

Everyone is using their best endeavours to navigate the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis. There has been an extraordinary level of work in the Diocesan Office to coordinate the application for Jobkeeper and to facilitate strategic financial management. I recognise the immense amount of work work being done in parishes as well.

The Diocesan Office will continue to invoice parishes for their payroll in the usual manner as part of the debtors system. The parish will be invoiced at the same time for insurance, parish contribution to the diocese and other charges which are usually invoiced.

Jobkeeper payments, when they are received will be credited against the invoice through the debtors system. In every parish there will be outstanding amounts that still need to be met by the parish.

The standard direct debit deduction from the parish account will be processed. Should the parish council have concern that it will not have sufficient cash for local expenses (such as utilities, security etc) then the Parish Council Treasurer should contact the Diocesan Office to arrange a change in the standard deduction. The Diocesan Office understands the need for the parishes to have operational funds. They are ready to provide assistance.

Parishes are expected to pay as much of their debit to the Diocese as soon as they can and on a timely basis.

Parishes are expected to draw down their savings to meet expenses where they have those savings. Parishes are expected not to add to their savings in this period where they have outstanding debt.

We were surprised to learn that a few parishes were running accounts outside of the ASDF without the required approval. These accounts must be transferred into the ASDF as soon as possible or approval sought from the Diocesan Chief Executive.

Where amounts owing to the diocese are not being paid the parish council treasurer will be contacted by Diocesan Office staff to gain a fuller understanding of the situation.

The Diocesan Office staff understand that parishes are struggling and that each month more parishes will begin to struggle. This is a sad consequence of the economic circumstances facing our community.

The arrangements established by the Diocesan Council and the NACC Board to provide a safety net have been put in place to carry debt for parishes where there is no local alternative to meeting that debt.

Please be in touch with the bishop for your episcopal area or with me if you have pastoral matters that arise because of these requirements.

Where Jobkeeper is not enough

The payment to the Incumbent or Locum Clergy and then to any Associate Clergy remains the first call on the parish finances. This is followed by the stipend, salary and wage payments to other staff in the parish.

Our experience is that clergy are fully deployed in their ministries at the moment. There is no basis for reducing the clergy hours of ministry and thus the stipend and benefit arrangements for clergy remain at their current level. Clergy have been invited to consider their ministry situation and apply to the Bishop if they wish to change the current arrangements.

Sadly, the pressure of COVID-19 means that some parishes will need to reduce their non-clergy staffing hours as a result of changes in parish finances.

The Diocesan Chief Executive Officer will be writing to parishes that employ staff in roles which are primarily classified as non-ministry roles. The Incumbent and Churchwardens are required to review the work being undertaken by these staff where the cost exceeds the Jobkeeper payment to indicate that they are confident that they can meet those costs.

I will be writing to parishes who have staff in ministry related roles in a similar way.

Where the parish is not able to meet those costs they should seek assistance from the Diocesan Office to review the employment or appointment arrangements.

Please be in touch with the bishop for your episcopal area or with me if you have pastoral matters that arise because of these requirements.

Op Shop reopening, fundraising and church buildings are not yet able to re-open

I was privileged to be part of a conversation between religious leaders and the Acting NSW Minister for Multicultural Affairs on Wednesday. It is clear that there are significant concerns about the potential for cluster outbreaks of COVID-19. There is particular concern about the impact on vulnerable groups.

In that conversation faith communities are recognised for both having significant number of people involved who are identified as vulnerable as well for their work in supporting vulnerable people. Further, there are faith-based activities which are identified as having transmission risks.

The overarching message (on Wednesday) was that it would be some time before communal and public worship activities would be permitted.

Consequently, based on an assessment of the risks and the need for consistent action across the Diocese the current limitations remain in place.

Parishes working in clusters and hubs

In 2018, I worked with the Assistant Bishops to explore with a number of parishes the possibility of working together to ensure sustainable long term ministry across the Diocese.

The idea of clusters and hubs is for parishes to find ways of keeping their local identity but also discovering that in sharing resources their worship, ministry and mission can be sustained and expanded.

One group began to explore sharing administrative resources, another group began to explore affirming the strength of each parish in distinct areas.

For some groups, the conversation is about ensuring the best use of scarce resources.

The impact of COVID-19 means that I am working with Bishop Charlie and Bishop Sonia to bring forward these conversations. It is becoming apparent that ministry as usual will not be possible for some parishes emerging from COVID-19. With optimism and trust, every parish needs the opportunity to flourish and see what is possible when we can return to our church buildings. With attention to stewardship, we must also explore options for sustainable flourishing.

Clusters and hubs are not simply about parishes where the budget has got tight. It is a strategy focused on finding ways of maximising the use of the gifts God has entrusted to each congregation at this time.

Grace and peace

+Peter