Outline of talk by Mike Harvey (Treasurer )

Introductory comments:
Today’s focus on stewardship is not just about asking for more money, because some may have to review their giving downwards, but rather an opportunity to look at what and how we give something back to the Church here at Seal. However, we are at a bit of a financial crossroads and we felt it was appropriate to look at the money situation and to give people the chance to reflect on this and their personal giving in a more formal way. Some background information on our finances is shown on various boards around the Church, (and in the leaflet, “Stewardship at St Peter and St Paul")

2.    Précis of expenditure:
It costs about £70,000 a year to run Seal Church on a full time basis, by which I mean assuming that we pay a full stipend to the Vicar as we did for Keith and his predecessors.  In reality, Anne is currently paid at two-thirds but is giving us a full time commitment, something the PCC is very keen to redress if possible.
90% of our total annual costs are effectively unavoidable unless we start cutting the number or quality of the services or shut the Church Hall.
In 2007, even without adjusting the stipend, we are budgeting for a loss of around £1,500 and this will increase steadily over the coming years if we do nothing about it to around £7,000 per annum by 2010.  This also assumes that our income remains constant.

3. Précis of income:
Our budgeted income for 2007 is between £55,000 and £60,000.  However, we already know that some of this is ‘at risk’ with people having moved away or died.
Nearly half of this income comes from planned giving and a further 9% from cash collections each Sunday.  The remainder comes from Fees (weddings and funerals), fund raising, income from investments, church hall lettings, the occasional legacy, miscellaneous donations and so forth.
So you can see how very important the planned giving element is to us as, with the tax rebate (from Gift Aided giving), this accounts for over 60% of our total income.  Including cash collections this goes up to just over 70%.  We also have a greater degree of control over these elements.

4.    Value of planned giving:
The pattern of planned giving at Seal is also shown on one of the boards (and in the leaflet) – with some comparative living costs ranging from the basic to the luxury end of the market.  For those who are on the planned giving scheme the weekly average is just over £8.50 – more or less the cost of a book or a CD (or a bottle of spirits), whichever you can best relate to.  This equates to £37.00 per month.
Clearly, some of us can afford more and some of us cannot – the important thing, to my mind, is the principle of the commitment itself.
Planned giving means just that, a commitment to pay a certain amount per week or month (some are quarterly or annual) which enables us to rely on a bedrock of income which the Church will receive whether or not people attend services and put money in the plate each Sunday.
This then allows us to predict with confidence what money is coming in each month and to budget our expenditure accordingly.

5.    Value of Gift Aid:
It also gives us the opportunity to use Gift Aid, which can currently raise another 28% on top by way of a rebate from the Government.  However this will drop to 25% from April 2008 which means that our income from this one element will reduce by over 11% (about £900 a year).
In order just to recoup that loss, everyone would need to increase their giving by around 2¼%.
Of course, none of us really know yet how we will be affected personally by this new, lower basic rate of tax, but I guess that most of us will be a bit better off.
Higher rate taxpayers can also reclaim the tax paid between the basic and higher rate bands through their annual tax returns.

6.    Closing comments:
Please, therefore, give some thought to these issues:
•    If you give via the collection plate, would you be prepared to switch to the planned giving scheme – if you feel uncomfortable letting the plate go by without putting something in then this can be done by way of the envelope scheme;

•    How much do you think you should be giving each week or month and how much can you afford?

•    If you (or your spouse/partner) are a UK tax payer, then please give serious thought to gift aiding your regular contribution (and, indeed, any one-off donations) as the opportunity to reclaim a large percentage from the Government is really too good to miss.

Having to prepare this short talk has given me the chance to reflect on what the Church here at Seal means to me personally – the building, the people, the music – is it worth supporting financially and, if so, how much should I give?
Our target is to increase overall income by around £15,000 in a full year, which will enable us to reward Anne properly and to have a little room for manoeuvre going forward.  This represents more than a third again based on our current giving, which is demanding.
The Diocese calls stewardship ‘TRIO’ (the responsibility is ours) and I agree that each and every one of us is responsible for Seal Church and its finances, but I would particularly appeal to any who are not currently on the planned giving scheme to respond.

For response form, please click here.


You may have noticed that some new leaflets appeared in the church just before our flower festival –church trail leaflets, (adults and children's leaflets - downloadable here) which tell you a bit about the history and features of the church. I’ve been meaning to write them for ages, but that was the spur that got me going. It was fascinating writing them. I’m not too bothered on architectural detail – the height of the tower and the precise kind of roof we’ve got – but what does fascinate me are the clues we find around the church about the people who have worshipped here, the people to whom this place has been important. Most of you have been worshipping here much longer than me, but perhaps, for the benefit of those who haven’t met these characters I can introduce a few of them.

Our oldest named “inhabitant” so to speak, is of course, Sir William De Bryene – you can see his brass up by the altar. The Latin inscription around him tells us Here lies the Lord William de Bryene, knight, formerly Lord of Kemsing and of Seal who died on the 23rd day of the month of September in the year of our Lord 1395, to whose soul may God be propitious. Amen. He’s the local bigwig, buried in the position of greatest honour in the church according to the beliefs of medieval Christians. This place mattered to him. He wanted to be remembered here, in the church he worshipped in, and, no doubt supported financially. I expect the church looked very different in his day, but some things would have been the same. Those of you sitting on the south side of the church may be able to reach out and touch the pillars there. They are medieval. Sir William De Bryene might once have touched that very same stone…

If we move on a few centuries we meet someone who I think was the ultimate matriarch. Above the door to the vestry you can see a memorial to Clemence Theobold. This good lady, who died in 1605 had seven sons and nine daughters – they didn’t all survive infancy but many of them did. And they must also have been inclined towards having large families, because when Clemence died, the memorial tells us, she was mother, grandmother or great-grandmother to 115 offspring. Imagine the Christmas present list…!
I often look at that stone and wonder if she sat here in church sometimes for a bit of peace and quiet as I know many of you do.

Then there is Maximillian Buck. I have a great fondness for him. He was vicar here in the aftermath of the Civil War. I expect they needed a bit of stability after all the turmoil of that, and they got it in Maximillian – he was vicar from 1674 to 1720 – 46 years. There are lots of marks of his influence here, and signs that he loved this place. His memorial is at the back near the font. But this fine chandelier was given in his memory too. And every week we use an engraved chalice and paten that he gave. I love the chalice, partly because the engraver made a mistake in the wording. He left out the first “h” in church and had to alter it to squeeze it in. I wonder how he would have felt if he had known that 350 years later people were still noticing his mistake?

There are many more stories to tell here, of course, but there are just as many stories we don’t know. We’ve still got some old wedding registers here from the early 1800’s – and what I notice looking at them is the large number of people at the
beginning who sign their name with crosses. They couldn’t

write even their own names. But this place was here for them at the crucial moments in their lives.

This church is certainly 800 years old, and it is quite likely that Christians had been worshipping here in older buildings for long before that too. There is an enormously long history, a huge legacy. Each of those who came here did so because it mattered – not just the building, but the spiritual support (and often very practical support too) that the church gave them. Faith was important, the church was important, ministry mattered. It made a difference to their lives.

My experience here in this community is that faith is still important, the church is still important, ministry still matters. Seal is not a sleepy hollow. The picture you often get from the media is of the Church declining not only in numbers but also in its relevance to people, but that isn’t how it seems to me at all. I have found that there are far more requests from people to get involved in what is going on locally, far more opportunities, than I can ever hope to meet, even on a full time basis. The schools, the local organisations, individuals marking the big moments in their lives – baptisms, marriages, deaths – still want this church to be there for them, as well as those in the regular congregation who want to worship, to learn, to reflect and grow, or who need support at moments of crisis. They want not only the old building and the churchyard, though that is important, but the living support and witness of those who are part of this church. On a regular basis the government (and the opposition) call on the voluntary sector – and that includes faith groups – to be involved in everything from schools to care for the elderly and disabled, to community projects to rehabilitating offenders to environmental action. We’re here, on the ground, a group made up of people who are living on the spot, caring already for one another and for other local people. It can feel quite exhausting, but it is exciting too, and a great privilege.

The harvest is plentiful, says Christ to his followers in today’s Gospel reading, but the labourers are few (Luke 10.2) That can sound a bit aggressive, as if we are going out with scythes to cut people down like wheat and bundle them in whether they like it or not. But I don’t think Jesus means it like that. What I think he is pointing us to is the fact that there is work to be done, people who need what we have, people too who have what we need, people we can learn from, and people who can learn from us. There are blessings to be shared. Don’t believe those stories of decline or of the irrelevance of the church – if it were so I would have a much easier job – I really would be able to do this job part-time! I suspect that sometimes we are unnecessarily apologetic about the church. There is certainly a lot that we can apologise for – nationally, internationally and locally – and times when we want to say of the church “not in my name!”,  but that doesn’t mean that what we do here – all of us together – doesn’t matter. It matters a great deal, just as it did to Sir William de Bryene, Clemence Theobold, Maximillian Buck and all those nameless ordinary people who have found peace, hope and joy here, and to the people of the present and the future who also need this place, its ministry and its message.

It takes time, talents and effort to respond to those opportunities, but it also takes money. Mike’s given you the facts and figures – I hope you’ll go away and ponder them and respond as you are able, so that we can continue to try to do what God has called us to here.