Back as we were deciding on the text of a vision statement for the deanery, I remember Chris Poulard saying "the test of whether the vision is real to us is whether it inspires us when the big finance conversation comes up". Now is the moment for that test.
But we do not face the test alone. On 17 December 2007 some of the deanery leadership team were joined by Canon Don Cardy (Chairman of Diocesan Budget Committee) and Anthony Nicolle (Vice- Chairman of DBF) - who have kindly agreed to advise us.
Four themes emerged from a very helpful conversation:
1. Decline in attendance. Since 1991, average attendance across the deanery has declined by 30%; this is strikingly greater than both national and diocesan averages, and needs to be explained. Our advisers suggested encouraging each church to graph their attendance records, see what caused particularly sharp declines, and make some sensible projections and plans about the future. This has obvious relevance to conversations on finance, since shortfalls may have arisen as much due to a loss of members as due to individual members not being sufficiently generous.
2. Best practice in stewardship. As a group, we were clear that best practice for parishes includes moving towards the appointment of Giving Officers and the use of a stewardship programme such as TRIO. We noted some parishes (such as East Hanningfield and Great Baddow) moving in the direction of best practice.
3. Formula Revision. We set our synod on 9 September 2008 as our deadline; on this date, the synod needs to vote on a new formula for levying parish share. On June 11 there will be an open discussion at synod about the vision and principles that should inform this.
4. Advice to individual parishes. In the period February-September Don and Anthony have kindly offered their services to help individual parishes in the deanery; they have served other deaneries in this way with considerable success.
What do you think? Start having your say here!