Marcus Walker

The misguided priorities of church authorities

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This has been a tough year for everyone. Death, mental collapse, grief, unemployment. In my church we’ve lost people to Covid — one of the earliest victims was a regular at our 9 a.m. Communion. We’ve lost people to mental health — one of the homeless men who came to our services, and who used to delight us by playing the piano, hanged himself over the summer.

Money is tight, and ancient buildings need constant repairing. Our Lady Chapel roof costs £280,000 and I still have to raise £100,000, without the help of any fundraising events.

Most parishes are staring at deficits of tens of thousands of pounds, so they listened intently when, in November, the new Archbishop of York unveiled ‘A vision for the Church of England in the 2020s’. ‘Simpler, humbler, bolder’, what did that mean?

Well, now we know. A leak to the Sunday Times has just revealed that it means the closing down of churches and the redundancy of clergy. ‘A number of dioceses are assessing… whether subsidised parishes should continue to receive such support.’

Subsidised parishes is code for ‘poor’. And rather than this being a matter of great distress to the episcopacy, it appears that the horrors of Covid-19 have presented them with an opportunity: ‘Many diocesan leaders believe that the financial challenges being exposed by the pandemic mean this is the moment to embark on radical changes to reshape existing resource patterns and ministry structures.’

Nobody can deny that we face an uphill struggle to survive as a church — 50 years of failed reforms, public feuds and drab appointments have made sure of that. What’s certain is that an episcopacy that gives an impression that it does not like the Church of England will guarantee its death.

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