The PCC were sitting in the hall with copies of the agenda on their knees. Tonight they were discussing their newly revamped parish magazine and website, and how to share the good stuff the church was up to.
They’d already listed the coffee morning, Messy Church, all the sick people visited, youth outreach, Rev John’s ‘flower and glory’ flora and Bible classes, and the kilos and kilos collected for the Foodbank. “It’s a lot of stuff isn’t it?” Rev John flicked through his notes. “I think it’s important that people see what impact their generosity has, don’t you?”
“Not money again.” Groaned Tim. Tim had a pathological hatred of talking about money.
“Well Parish Share is next on the agenda” said Rev John a bit defensively, “and I’m just saying, it’s great seeing what everyone’s contributions make possible.”
“But they don’t! All our money goes to the diocese!”
“We are the diocese,” corrected Mary.
Tim ignored her. She was spoiling his rant, and he really needed to rant. He’d reflect later that he was a bit rude, but that was for future Tim to worry about. Present day Tim was mid-flow. “We never see a penny of it. Parish Share just goes to the big black hole that’s the diocese. What has the diocese ever done for us?”
All eyes were now on Rev John, waiting for his answer. He couldn’t see this as his head was in his hands. The meeting had been going so well until now. Richard interrupted his sorrowful thoughts by asking him to explain to Tim what ‘the diocese’ (he did the inverted commas with his fingers which was quite annoying) actually did to support them. Didn’t ANYONE know what parish share was for? He composed himself and was about to answer when Anna piped up, “Well, there’s Reverend John. Parish Share pays his stipend.” A murmur of agreement.
Mary joined in, “There’s the legal adviser. When we had all that bother with the architects, we rang the diocesan office and were given free, expert legal advice.” Heads nodded.
Her husband David added, “And remember when Andy the Youth Adviser talked to us about reaching out to more young people? He ran that big youth night at the cathedral called Pulse. There’s one again on 9th July. And he’s organising Prayer Spaces in Schools training with Sharon the Diocesan Children’s Adviser. He’s running the Bishop’s Certificate, a 6 week training course for youth workers.”
Rev John looked through his fingers at the PCC. A flicker of hope ignited. They were on a roll. It was time for Richard to wade in. “When Amy was planning the summer camp she got lots of support from Sharon. And did you know…” he rather smugly addressed the room, “that she runs free Messy Church training days, Puppet Training Days, and Open the Book Training days? There’s the Prayer Project with training, and there’s the Godly Play Network. And, she set up the Children’s Council so that school-aged Christians can have their voices heard…”
“…and there’s the admin staff, clergy housing team, faculties adviser, legal adviser, the secretary. They’re all there to help us. And there’s the training up of new clergy. That’s where your parish share goes Tim. When Rev John and vicars like him retire, we need someone to replace them. Future clergy need training.”
Through a mouthful of biscuits, Barry blurted, “Free training and resources for the Start! mission course we’re running.” Rev John was relieved. He breathed deeply.
Tim knew he was being unreasonable but it was far too late for reason. He had to go for it… “Yes but apart from clergy stipends, pensions and housing, children and youth advisers, admin staff, training, legal advice, faculties, finance, mission and evangelism training courses and free resources, and the training up of new Readers and clergy… what has the diocese ever done for us?”
Suddenly the tension burst and everyone laughed. Everyone except Natalie who’d nipped out to the kitchen to prepare the coffees, and shouted around the door as a final volley “Media! Prayer support! Vocation support!” Hurrah! The PCC was a buzz of excitement. Tim stroked his chin thinking it over, still looking unconvinced. Kevin, a pastry chef with bright red curly hair, turned to Rev John. He felt utterly bewildered tonight and wondered if anyone else felt lost like him. He put up his hand. “Yes Kevin, please, you don’t need to raise a hand.” Said Rev John.
“I actually didn’t know any of that John. I mean, I didn’t have a problem with our financial contributions going to the common fund, you know, Parish Share, but I honestly didn’t know our parish share paid for all that stuff for us.”
Rev John stared. Did some people really not know this? Richard made a suggestion, “Since we started off talking about our magazine and website, mightn’t it be a good idea to include something about what Parish Share goes towards, so people know? I imagine Kevin isn’t the only one.” He was right. Richard had hit the spot, again. He was such a know-it all.