Village meeting 2011

Around one hundred villagers attended the open meeting called to discuss the future
of the church building within this village.

Speakers were introduced: Martin Dickinson – Resident, Rev Andrew Mottram – Heritage Buildings & Community Development Officer, The Diocese of Worcester, Eric Carter – Churchwarden and Treasurer, and Paddy Hartley – Resident.

Martin Dickinson provided some background information:
The church is in difficulty, Eric Carter, on behalf of the Parochial Church Council [PCC] met with Martin Dickinson and Paddy Hartly to discuss how this situation might be addressed. As a result of this consultation; six months ago a questionnaire was produced and distributed to every home in Bishampton and subsequently collected and the information gained analysed. This meeting is our opportunity to report back to you the outcome of that research. Representatives from the village hall, shop and pub have been invited, the church does not wish to take away from any other organisation within the village.

271 questionnaires were distributed, and 42 completed questionnaires were returned, that equates to a fifteen percent response rate, which is a pretty good return and provided a great deal of information.

Church usage:
Of those people who chose to comment, 54% indicated a preference for using the building for more diverse usage than worship alone, 44% indicated that it should be kept solely as place of worship.
Need to improve amenities:

Of those people who chose to comment 31% indicated a preference not to improve the amenities, whilst 69% indicated the need to improve facilities, so that is what we want to do.
Improvements Considered:

Better heating
– Hearing Loop
– Flexible seating
– Toilets
– Car Park – work started on this
– Water supply
– Toilets
Above everything else a water supply and heating were most strongly supported.
St James would continue to be used as a place of worship and for other events without impinging on the village hall. Of the events considered within the remit of the questionnaire concerts were identified as the most popular use, followed by special events [such as Royal Wedding celebrations], its use as a place of reflection, for a farmers market, there was a desire to use the building for things other than worship.

A question was raised from the floor: “Why is the status quo not an option?” The building requires money to function. If you do nothing the fabric of the building will begin to deteriorate. Andrew Mottram will cover this in more detail.

Andrew Mottram introduced himself, his job title is Heritage Buildings & Community Development Officer, [there are nationally around 30 such positions] this position is funded by English Heritage and local authorities, his job is primarily to help church communities and communities to have churches that meet their needs. He was a
parish priest for 25 years. He was priest in charge of a church in Hereford just a stone’s throw from the Cathedral, the church was ripe for closure, however a cafe was installed in the west end of the church and this enterprise now funds the building. AM works mostly with the Church of England, which has by default a vast majority of listed buildings. Over time the church has gone through a major change.

Many years ago a priest’s stipend was paid for by dead Christians, money came from Church of England investment, this now pays for pensions.
Today, in line with the world of Methodist, Catholic and other free church traditions the finances for the living church come from the living. The pensions bill is phenomenal because clergy now live so long, many well into their 90s, the church is facing a major crisis, here and up and down the country, it also costs an arm and a leg to uphold the buildings. The church can no longer pay for both the fabric of the buildings and its salaries.

It is time to rediscover how our medieval churches work. At its concept and origin the church building was the place of meeting for the whole community. It was the civil centre of administration between the church and the state. The churchwardens had the job of making the enterprise work. Until the reformation ale was brewed and consumed on the premises, the nave was the space for the people, the other side of the rude screen, the chancel was the holy, priests place. The building was run as an enterprise. Until the 1600 the building was used for all manner of activities, for schooling, meetings, partying, as fettling sheds, it housed the cattle in
cold winters, it was a refuge in times of trouble.

The church is your space, in church law the ownership of the building is ownership by the people of the parish, vested with the PCC. The PCC have the responsibility of keeping it up and open. This is your building to keep or to lose. If you want to demolish the building it is a painful process. It is relatively simple to keep the building if you put in place some trickle funding, if you can keep the building dry, you can keep it. Wet causes more damage than fire. If kept dry this building will keep well into the future, this building has outlived everybody, none of us want to be the generation to say it couldn’t be bothered. Some of the maintenance tasks we can do ourselves, others need specialist intervention.

Contrary to belief you can sell alcohol in a church, sell food, dance, hold social meetings, it is the legacy of Victorian spirituality which has indoctrinated us to believe you have to sit up straight face the front and prepare to be preached to death, or to be bored stupid with dull liturgy.
St James Bishampton is an interesting building, opposite the main entrance is a gem of a medieval head, a 12th century font, how many children have been baptised there? People have been hatched, matched and dispatched for hundreds of generations. It might stand at the far end of the village, doubtless to do with the way the lad was owned, but has been relevant throughout the life of the village.

By supporting the building you don’t have to sign up to its organised religion. This building will after all outlive religious organisation. It is a part of your community, it is your place of meeting to bring the big and the little things of life. It tells its own story. It would be interesting to do some work on the story of this place, its origins with Fladbury in early years. Unfortunately the Victorians swept everything old away. With research it may be possible to find people from Bishampton who have gone on to do great things in the past, for example the Former Governor of Quebec John Callow. In the 1930’s Bishampton had a real nutter for a priest, all fascinating

As has happened throughout history, every so often the people abandon God, however this building remains your place.

The jam of stipendary clergy is being spread thinner and thinner, currently Clive has 12 churches to look after, Clive can’t be chief and king of Bishampton, he is being spread increasingly thinly, this means the people of the parish have an opportunity for huge involvement in determining the say and the way things are and will be.
To run the building, saving for when things wear out, you should estimate £10K a year, to be comfortable $15K then when something breaks you have a fund you can dip in to fix it. Every year there is a need to carry out basic maintenance, pointing, clearing gutters downpipes etc from a village this size it is possible. Peopleton has turned itself around, they are now motoring, lots of other villages waking up to this.

AM recently went to village 84 houses, they had a public meeting 75 percent of households now give only £100 a year, that equates to just two tanks of petrol but it has secured the church for future. You might say you do not have enough disposable income to spare to give to the church, what we are asking tonight is that you get engaged, that you consider a friends group, a body of people that sits to the side of the PCC, support keeping the building in the parish. Eric Carter addressed the meeting. On the PCC, he holds the role of churchwarden and treasurer, the difficulty is when the churchwarden comes to treasurer requesting money to carry out work on the church, he find himself having difficult arguments with himself.

The PCC are struggling to maintain the building with current financial situation. The building is in pretty good condition, the recent quinquennial report says there are things we need to do amounting to £5K each year over the next five years. We are fortunate that the building is in such a good condition because previous PCCs and churchwardens have looked after it and kept it going. Our priority is always to keep the building in good repair and fit for purpose.

What is going to happen in the future? How could we be supported, what support do we need?
We do get support in specific areas, there are ladies who look after the flowers in the building, people come in and clean, others help with accounts, or with legal bits, we do get support, but could do with some more to keep going. Cleaning is one area for example, it has been necessary to dispense with the paid cleaner, we could not afford it, we could do with help in cleaning on a regular basis, and a big clean from time to time. Decoration of the church, is essential. The churchyard takes up a significant amount of money, the Parish Council do help, but don’t cover the cost, help is needed. The PCC recently spent a day trying to tidy the churchyard, looking after graves, but this is a huge task. Painting needs doing, the railings round churchyard need repainting. It is not always simple, the building needs a degree of
care in the type of materials used and how to use them.

There are a whole host of minor repairs that need attention, we have just had gutters cleaned, if someone was prepared to work at height, and had suitable ladders, then there would have been no need to have paid to have it done. Expertise, anybody who can offer professional expertise is welcome, we have a small area of land, someone to administer the land rental, would save the cost of a surveying firm, electrics, promotion, financial, any help is appreciated at the end of the day.

Mandatory costs, what legally do we have to do? not cleaning or repairing but things like:
– Insurance £1,900 annually
– Testing of fire equipment £50 annually
– Testing of lightning conductor £50 annually
– Electrical test £270 every five years, scaffolding is required in order to have heaters tested
– Quinquiennial inspection £540 years =£130 a year Is this right is not quinquennial every 5 years ie £110 a year?

It costs £2,400 per annum just to keep the church open.
– Maintenance:
– Roof repairs
– Guttering and drainage
– Pointing of brickwork
– Painting internal and external
– Woodworm treatment
– Churchyard work
Major building works need money in the bank:
– Electrical system
– Path replacement
– Carpets and curtains
– Heating system
– Roof refurbishment – re tiling, and lead work, the nails holding the slates on the roof are 100 years old, there will be major work required and a new roof in time, lead does wear out what is currently on the roof is 150 years old.

– Organ refurbishment
We need to build funds to look towards the future to be able to act when major works present themselves.
Questions were then invited from the floor:
Religion was not for discussion, only matters relating to the church building. It was suggested ‘Young offenders’ be employed to work in the churchyard.

Had consideration been given to photo voltaic cells on the roof?
An expert recently given advice and felt that these would probably not prove economic in the long run, the angle and slope of roof was not ideal, the roof structure was unlikely to be adequate to support the frames that support the panels, and they are not attractive. AM also stated that listed building, and planning consent would be required, rates have be changed by half on feed in tariffs. He also felt a Victorian roof, and Victorian nails which will be heading towards nail sickness, would not withstand the grids that carry cells and would do more damage. The current guidance default for English Heritage is no, unless you can make a good
case and then they would consider it.
From the floor: Photo voltaic panels Don’t have to go on roof.
AM they can go on the ground, but this is a fraught area with listed buildings.
Would major building works be included in the figure of £5K a year?
£5K a year is for little jobs added up, like vegetation removal, urgent pointing, slipped tiles. Fortunately there is a company Heritage Stone Access who use ropes rather than scaffolding and have done a vast amount of this type of work for us.
This £5K is also to cover cost of identified bits of stonework, replacing cracked tiles as you come into porch etc. Budget as an asset management activity, the 5 quinquennial is a statement of what needs to be done over the next few years and is prioritised.

Do we have an analysis of income?
Income is complicated, there is a statement of last years income at the rear of the church it can be £11 -12K in a good year other than church, it gives an indication of how much we have been spending on building and how much on other costs. We did have to remove asbestos a while ago, we have trickled along at about £500 – £600 doing maintenance, others slipping. The financial position is that at the end of the year, the church will be broke. This needs the figures and content checking The PCC has certain commitments over and above the building, this year we will have a shortfall on what we owe, we do not have money to support the church, more and more difficult to fund meeting. The PCC runs services which costs ten times more in church than running the service in the village hall. We, do have some bequests for specific expenditure on the church, called reserved or restricted funds.

The PCC operates restricted funds restricted for specific church as opposed to other activities.
Some idea of how much annually the village would have to raise to keep maintained in addition to add heating and other things on the list. How much are we looking at trying to raise?
We would not need to raise full funding for some projects but an amount and look for match funding from someone like Severn Waste.

The floor pressed for some sort of ball park figure. If we try and give numbers now they wont be the right ones, tonight we are trying to give you an idea of what we could do, we are asking you to commit to A Friends of St James, to join us and taking into account the information provided decide from what the villagers say they want ie heating then decide what to pursue.
To give a general idea, it costs currently without any improvement £10 – 15K to keep it going, and to keep some in the bank, we need to remember, this is mostly a Victorian rebuild, coming to the end of its first stage of life. Stone, glass, metal begins to fail and will get to the point when it needs to be rebuilt. It is difficult to say a figure, in your mind the PCC is responsible for two distinct bits of church life, one the worship and church life the other the church building. Take
as separate bits of money, the ministry of one vicar and parish is a minimum of 30K a year but we are not here to talk about that, we are tonight talking about keeping the building in a secure state at a cost of £10-15K, if we have got major replacement works ie heating, that would depend on the heating system you have, impossible for us to give figure tonight. Think about you house, each year you probably spend on a house a year in maintenance £2-3K a little here and there, you don’t notice it. The church bank account has not got enough, so you notice it, also the church has to present accounts annually.

We have a fabric office who offers advice in interpreting the priorities in the quinquennial report. Every roof with slipped slates, at some point is going to have to be re-roofed, it is hoped to push if far enough into long grass so that in 5 years time there will be accumulated funds there. Gutters get blocked, they are all cast iron, they need to be de rusted and hammorited inside and out to continue in reasonable condition, we could do this bit by bit with ladders or with scaffolding this is just ‘a stitch in time’ tactics we need a fighting fund as major works will be required and these things will be expensive .

What proportion of funds that come in actually go out of the village to diocese or other bodies?
Parish share, or quota, this year we said we could manage £6K if we were lucky, we were  actually tasked with finding £8.5K . It should be pointed out that what goes out comes back in the form of a parish priest.

Asked if anyone employed a member of staff, say their salary was 10K a year, what does it cost to employ with National Insurance etc, you can add on a further 30%. Clive receives a salary around £20K, add a further third on costs £27K, add a house £37K add other costs, and to arrive at an estimate that to put a priest in post is about 40K a year plus the pension. In 1972 there was no pension fund that is why clergy stayed in post until they died they had no choice. In some circumstances a successor paid a pension for a predecessor. We might pay out £10K in parish share, but that is only a contribution to the cost of parish priest. There is an element of what goes out funds the diocesan office, however there has been a big shortfall only go 85% of Parish Share was paid last year, as a result of which twelve people at the Old Palace have had their jobs redesigned, and eight have been made redundant. The same situation is being faced up and down the country, what goes out comes back in.
Surprised that the church could write off £800 miillion.
This was a paper loss, debts not called in, assets are now the other side of £5 million, this paper loss was as a result of bad investment practise, without a doubt, that same year the Prudential Building Society £1 billion.
Parish money that we have, come from giving, in collection, legacy, standing order, gift aid, and that is it. With a congregation of five people we cannot make ends meet.
It is hoped that this evening has provided lots of food for thought, we hope you have learnt something. It is good to see so many people here, basically to revert to what we began with, let us see what we can do, what would you like to do for this church to keep it at the end of the village, papers distributed to write on if you would like to sign up to a Friends of St James.
Thanks were expressed to Andrew Mottram and to all those who have contributed.

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