by Geoffrey Randells
Dear Sister and Brothers, when I spoke to you this time last year, I was able to report an improvement in our financial position. But unfortunately, the situation has deteriorated over the past 12 months.
The main reason for this will be obvious to anyone trying to manage a household budget, and that of course is inflation. As we all know, the price of almost everything has risen quite noticeably and the rise in fuel prices has been particularly pronounced. Our church is not exempt from these pressures.
During the recent cold snap as prices surged, our fuel bill was running at over £3,500 a month – yes £3,500 a month or more than £800 a week. We’re moving into the warmer months now and prices will probably decline, but the adverse conditions over the winter means that the reserves we were holding for a rainy day, if you like, have been substantially eaten into.
The finance committee is considering ways of reducing our energy consumption (which might involve some difficult choices) but in passing, can I urge everyone not to take it upon themselves to increase the temperature on the thermostat. This is still happening on a regular basis and the result is to make our gas bill even more unaffordable than it already is.
But even with prudent measures we can only expect that our fuel bill will remain significantly elevated versus prior periods.
Insurance is also an area where we are seeing higher costs. This partly reflects the fact that the overall value hadn’t been reviewed for several years and when it was, it naturally led to a substantial uplift, but also that the costs of building materials and associated labour have been rising in line with the general inflation in the economy.
If you glance at the financial summary sheet, you’ll see that our insurance bill last year was £15,200. (It was less than £10,000 in 2020.) This year it has risen to £18,000 or £1500 per month. I’m not now going to go into the technical details, but I’d like to assure everyone that your finance committee is working hard to see how this can be mitigated.
Without going through all the costs line by line, I’m sure you’ll appreciate from what I’ve said about energy and insurance that the cost pressures are acute.
On the income side, if you take a look at the orange bars you’ll see that the total offertory rose from £51,200 in 2021 to £54,700 in 2022 - a healthy rise of £3,500 on the face of it – until you do the maths and see that equates to a rise of just 6.7% - well below the current rate of inflation, which is in excess of 10%.
Another cause of concern is that a number of our most generous donors have joined the holy souls over the past year. (There’s a note about the top 10 donors on the sheet, some of whom are no longer on this earth.)
If nothing happens, there’s a risk that our income will fall over 2023, which of course would be a very serious outcome in the face of continued high inflation.
This means that as well as thanking you for past generosity, I must ask all those that can to dig a bit deeper.
It is, I think, so easy to donate the same amount over many years, whether this is directly in the collection bag or electronically through the bank, without thinking about how the real value of this declines over time. When inflation is low this isn’t so obvious but when inflation is as it is right now, the effect is quite pronounced.
Can I therefore appeal to everyone who is in a position to do so, to review the amount you give in the light inflation that we’re suffering, especially if you’re aware that you’ve been contributing the same nominal amount over many years.
I’ve already made mention of the holy souls and in God’s good time, we will, we pray, all join the throng of those rejoicing on another shore and in a greater light.
And this leads me to the subject of wills.
It is always, in any case, a good idea to have a legal will in place. And so can I ask that as you write a will or revise an existing one, that you think about including Sacred Heart church as a beneficiary.
There are leaflets about this in the atrium prepared by the archdiocese which provides some details about the practicalities of this.
I’m not today going to go into detail about Gift Aiding as I’ve mentioned it many times before. But just to remind, that for anyone who pays tax (you don’t need to be employed) we can claim a tax rebate of 25% on your donations from HRMC. From the financial summary you’ll see that we received £9,300 from this source last year which was a useful addition, but I’d like to see it over £10,000. And so there are leaflets about this as well for anyone that would like to sign up.
So in summary three points:-
First, the inflationary pressures we’re facing are acute and so please increase your donations if your circumstances allow and Gift Aid where possible.
Second, think about Sacred Heart Church as a beneficiary in your will.
And finally, I’m always happy to discuss parish finance matters with any parishioner. The committee doesn’t have a monopoly of good ideas, so I’ll always be interested to hear views about fundraising or indeed, the extent to which we should heat the church.
But do make sure that it’s me you’re talking to. I mention this because we have a situation of what you might call mistaken identity.
I’m often asked about safeguarding issues and Michael Couglan the parish’s safeguarding officer, is often approached about finance matters. So common is this, that Michael and I have come to the inescapable conclusion that, to our parishioners, all bald men of a certain age must look the same. We of course are far too long in the tooth to worry about this, but if you get a blank face when you’re trying to do discuss finance or safeguarding, it could well be that you’re talking to the wrong bald old man!