Building up our common life!
A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley by Andrew McKearney on Sunday 27 January 2019
Saint Paul deeply valued the life of the church! If one member suffers, all suffer together, he wrote, if one member is honoured, all rejoice together! And of course by ‘the church’ Saint Paul is referring not to clergy and bishops as we sometimes do when we talk of someone ‘going into the church’ – but all of us!
There’s such a profound sense in Saint Paul of common responsibility – for each other, for prayer, for acts of loving service, for witness, for contributing to a vibrant community of faith! We all have a part to play!
If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not
belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part
of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not
an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make
it any less a part of the body.…..Now you are the body of
Christ and individually members of it.
That’s our calling!
One aspect of belonging to the body of Christ is that each of us takes responsibility for providing the money needed for the ministry and mission of the church.
We last thought about the money needed for our annual and long-term commitments as a church here 7 years ago!
And the fact that we don’t have to do this very often is a real tribute to the responsibility and generosity of you! So I want to begin with a very sincere ‘thank you’! There is no other source of regular income except us!
So why are we thinking about this? What’s happened to our finances in the last 7 years since 2012? Well, there are some obvious things – energy costs have risen, some of our church members have sadly died, others have moved away.
And in addition two things have impacted on our church budget.
Firstly the amount that we pay into the common fund to support the ministry not just here but in our neighbouring parishes of Littlemore, Blackbird Leys and Barton who are much poorer than we are, our contribution to that common fund has gone up by £9,000 a year, from £46,000 to £55,000 each year. That’s how much we pay as a church into this common fund – we’re glad to do this, but to achieve it, we all need to help!
Secondly we now rightly pay for the administrative help required to run the church and the hall, paying our two secretaries the very modest sum of £3,250 a year each.
So just those items taken together mean that we pay an extra £15,500 a year more now than we did in 2012.
So how come we’ve not gone bankrupt?!
Well we’ve had many new members join us in the last 7 years and you contribute generously in all sorts of ways including financially for which you too are owed a huge ‘thank you!
And without even being asked, some of us have increased our giving for which again we are deeply grateful!
Thanks to the generosity of previous generations, we’ve also got some reserves that we can draw on and we’ve dipped into them to balance the books.
And crucially we’ve let out the curacy house since Sarah Northall left us three years ago – and that has provided us with an income of about £10,000 every year. But this summer we’re getting a new curate and he’ll be living with his wife in the curacy house that was built for the ministry and mission in Rose Hill. So that rental income will go!
Overall we’re about £10,000 short on our core annual budget, and that’s not taking into account our long-term commitments.
About 80 households give regularly in a planned way to St Mary’s, which is fantastic!
If we’re one of those, we’re asked to consider increasing our contribution if we can! If we’re not currently one of those, we’re asked to consider becoming one of them!
If at all possible, the best way to do this is through the new Parish Giving Scheme, and if we pay tax to use Gift Aid so we can claim a further 25% from the Inland Revenue.
Give monthly, quarterly, annually – whatever suits our finances best, in a regular and planned way. We’ll all be receiving full details from Mark and Maureen, our churchwardens. And if you can, do come to the short presentation from Alex our treasurer, and Mark during coffee in the hall at 11.30am today or if not today in two weeks time.
But how much should we give? That’s never an easy question to answer! Our circumstances are so different! Maybe a better question is ‘How much do we value the life of the church here at St Mary’s?’ Does our giving reflect that?
And perhaps to help us, here’s a figure to think about – the average level of giving in this diocese is £100 a month per person – that’s the average before adding any Gift Aid – £100 a month per person.
Maybe that’s a goal we need to work towards as a church. Some can give more, others less – that’s for each of us to decide! And that too is something about being part of the community of the church – trusting each other to give as generously as we’re able!
As we heard Saint Paul say:
We are the body of Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body. Let us then pursue all that makes for peace and builds up our common life!