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The meeting was attended by approximately 60 parishioners. Kevin Jamieson, chairman of the Parish Finance Committee, welcomed everyone and asked Father Kieron to commence the meeting with a prayer, which was taken from the Preface of the Mass for the Dedication of a Church. This was appropriate in view of the main topic of the meeting.
Copies of the Annual Financial Report for St. Richard’s Parish had been attached to the newsletter on 23rd May. Kevin Jamieson (chairman) pointed out that the headings used in the report are as required by the Diocese according the Diocesan Manual. The sub-headings do not always equate under income and expenditure (some different headings are used, as instructed) but the totals do balance. Key items: income had dropped over 2003 whilst expenditure has gone up. It was only through the donation of a legacy that the parish finances have been kept in the black. If you require any further details of the finances, apart from Personnel, which is confidential, please contact Kevin Jamieson or Gerry Farrell (Parish treasurer) via the Parish Office. They will be happy to help.
The tax rebate is down this year. The number of active members (ie tax payers) had dropped. This is due to retirement or parishioners who are no longer eligible to pay tax, plus several parishioners have moved out of the parish or died. The Parish always needs new members. All that is required is completion of a form with your name and address. There is no other information required. By gift-aiding most of your donations to the church (some second collections are not eligible) we can claim 28p for every £1 you give us. This now forms a considerable sum in our total income. Kevin and Gerry count over £20,000 each year in lose cash – much of which could be gift-aided. Please do consider the scheme if you are not already a member. You are issued with envelopes with your number on them, but if you forget, there are always spares available in the porch. As the cost of running the parish continues to rise, so a greater income in needed.
For those unfamiliar with the scheme, this was set up some years ago with interest-free loans given by parishioners for investment to earn a regular income which would provide the funding for repairs and maintenance in the parish. Over the years most of these loans (except £640) has been converted to gifts. The Fund does not appear in the Financial Report as over the past three years the FT index has been unstable with a loss of about 28% (because of the Stock Market fluctuations). We are fortunate that our Fund managers have prevented our Fund suffering too much and it is now recovering at a greater rate than other investments. The investment today is at a market value of £150,725. Year 2000 Fund Committee Management Board meet regularly and have discussed re-investing the dividends into the Fund. The trends are watched but it has been decided as inappropriate at the moment in view of the possible need for funding for church improvements. The current account stands at £11,692.
The Parish Return has been submitted to the Diocese. Since our Parish Open Meetings had commenced in 1998 we have had income totalling £976,000 over 6 years, with expenditure of £957,000. This indicates that the parish is quite a sizeable business in its own right with such a large turnover.
We appeal for the goodwill and charity of all concerned. The Gift Aid scheme is an easy way of getting money for nothing. We do not require any financial information about you at all. All we need is your name and address and we will assign you a number and provide envelopes into which your weekly/monthly/annual donations to the church may be made. Alternatively you can complete a direct debit form.
Sally Minton asked when was the scheme last promoted from the pulpit? Kevin responded that it had been mentioned in the Annual Financial Report for the last three years, but no specific appeal has been made recently. David Owgan asked if there were plans to use the Year 2000 Fund for the proposed church extensions? This item would be addressed later in the meeting.
The role of the committee has been to oversee property maintenance, repairs and upkeep at St. Richard’s Church, Presbytery and Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Bosham. The screen to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was replaced with sliding doors to allow access to the main church. The church heating system has been repaired after receiving advice from many different directions, one of which suggested the whole system should be changed. Instead, repairs have been made to keep the system in order for the next few years. Changes in the presbytery have provided more office and meeting space and transferred the kitchen. This was a large project with considerable expenditure. Peter Serna (on the Buildings Committee) had been instrumental in the kitchen re-build, giving much of his time. There is a new door on the Presbytery. Minor maintenance works at Bosham have been completed over the last twelve months to arrest further deterioration, thus keeping the building smarter and tidier. Closure of Nutbourne had entailed the successful move of the stained glass windows to Bosham Church. The continuing expenditure on repairs and maintenance (not large projects) would be approximately £2,000 per annum. We are trying to spend your money wisely on your behalf.
Kevin Jamieson thanked the Buildings committee for putting in a lot of hours and work. He drew attention to the legacy now spent that meant that future repairs and maintenance will come from the Year 2000 Fund.
Father Kieron started this item with an admission and an apology. This would not be what we had expected, as he hoped that this meeting would reach a decision to take the proposals a stage further. However, opening his mail today had changed everything. The Diocesan Liturgy Commission, contrary to meetings previously held – had rejected the plan. The main reason against it: it does not go far enough. The church needs radical alteration to make it acceptable and compatible with liturgical changes. Anything less than a complete rebuild would be unacceptable. Father Kieron is however still interested to receive reaction within the parish to the proposed alterations. So far, he had received limited feedback which on balance had been positive. Concerns would have to be addressed: the preservation of the Stations of the Cross and the stained glass windows. How did the plans get this far? How many of you can clearly see the Baptismal font from where you are sitting? (Very few.) The font is beautiful but in the wrong place. It is important to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism without having to move everyone. Even if the Service is for only one child, the space is inadequate. The liturgical reforms introduced by Vatican II require a ‘place of prominence’ easily visible and a ‘place to gather round.’ As we now baptise two or three children at a time, this is becoming more awkward.
Eighteen months ago one of our series of Formation Days was for Welcomers. About 25 parishioners gathered to hear Martin Foster who works nationally for the Bishop’s Conference. Part of our input was to walk around the church and in particular the entrance. Its all very familiar to us and taken for granted. But with a heightened awareness to parish needs revealed a dingy dark porch with poor lighting, nowhere to gather before and after Mass. Not a welcoming building. We looked at ways to improve by building out from the chapel under and beyond the canopy to create a welcoming space with open aspect, where we could gather before and after Mass with a new entrance where the shop is currently situated. At this meeting last year the suggestion of all this was discussed and the meeting agreed that the matter should be taken further. An architect recommended by the Diocese walked around the church. The placing of the Baptismal font was discussed with the architect’s suggestion that the space between the north and main transepts be ‘pushed out’ to accommodate it. This would also open up the church and join the two separated congregations into one. It would be necessary to re-order the Blessed Sacrament Chapel accordingly with the re-location of the Reconciliation room to comply with Child Protection regulations. Ideas put forward from the Pastoral Planning Team were incorporated and elementary plans were drawn up. Part of the attraction of the scheme was the ability to find the money through the sale of Nutbourne Chapel, some funding from Year 2000 Fund and some fund-raising within the parish. It looked achievable. The letter from the Art and Architecture Committee of the Diocesan Liturgy Commission rejecting the scheme is unfortunate in its timing. This is not the decision we were led to believe would be made by members of the Commission. Their conclusion was to provide a new church possibly on new grounds within the area. John Hutchings asked on what grounds had the idea been refused?
Extract from the letter: ‘There was an over-riding sense that the plans should be seen in the context of a changing situation in Chichester. (Father Kieron has no knowledge of this.) If St. Richard’s is to be the future focus of Catholic life in the City, then a more radical scheme is required, which would address other shortcomings of the building whilst respecting its positive features. The alternative would be a completely new church on a different site. Features of the present building which the Committee considered positive include: 1) the high quality stained glass 2) the distinctive Stations of the Cross 3) the rhythm of the structural frames.’
John Cummins felt this was an extraordinary letter which needed further explanation. If they are encouraging us to be far more radical, then such a scheme would be way beyond our means. Would they support such a scheme financially? Father Kieron explained this would not be the case. They will always support us morally but not financially. We cannot go against their decision – we need their approval for such a large expenditure. Brian Taylor asked whose decision it was? Surely, in the light of what we can afford, a new church is out of the question. Changing the site was not an option – we have a prominent central place in Chichester and finding elsewhere would be probably impossible. We should take the discussion further with the support of the parishioners. Sally Minton asked if they could come and discuss it further with us at a similar meeting to tonight’s. Father Kieron: The proposed plans were to maximise the space available. Parishes are more centralised now – this is the way ahead. There are some Masses already overstretched for space, which was also a consideration. Mike Beal proposed that more pew space could be gained by moving the sanctuary back six feet and creating more space in both galleries. Megan Hadden asked if a delegation could go to the Diocesan Liturgical Commission? Father Kieron welcomed this suggestion, which was seconded by John Cummins. Joan Le Morvan suggested that ‘radical’ could quite easily encompass an full submersion walk-in Baptistery on the sanctuary and get rid of all the pews to make the space more welcoming. David Owgan asked if there was a ball-park figure for the proposals? The total figure (subject to confirmation and a proper quotation) was £246,000 of which the transept/baptistery extension would be £58,000.
Jeannine Rasborn had seen such a baptistery as proposed in the plans, in a church in Dallas and cutting the corner of the church makes a huge difference to uniting the congregation. A suggested baptistery at the back of the church was impractical because of the lack of space and would make the celebration of other sacraments – marriages and funerals in particular – very awkward. Sheila Lyons pointed out that there are many Victorian and Gothic churches in the Diocese which simply cannot be adapted – perhaps our church is of this category. It was also suggested that if we make changes now to comply with Vatican II how soon before it has to be changed again? John Hutchings asked for an explanation of Liturgical Norms.
Father Kieron explained that this church (built in the early 1960’s) is very much of its time but the church’s teachings on the Sacrament of Baptism have developed. This is no longer a private but a parish celebration. The Easter Vigil is focused on Baptism and needs the focal point to be in the sight of the whole congregation. A church should not remain static. Some older churches are not adaptable but St. Richard’s does have possibilities for changes to be made. John Hutchings felt it was quite out of order to suggest the church move out of the city. He felt we should demand that the Liturgical Commission is answerable to us. Frances Messenger asked if the font could be moved onto the sanctuary? Father Kieron said that the Liturgical Norms suggest this is ‘not preferable’ as our sole focus should be on the altar only for Mass. The font should be related to the sanctuary but not on it. A good example of adhering to Liturgical Norms is a new church at Epsom. The Baptistery is a full immersion pool in the aisle, together with a store for the sacred oils and an ambo for the proclamation of the word at the end of the aisle – away from the sanctuary. David Owgan said we appear to be going around in circles. Could not a temporary font be constructed and brought to the sanctuary for Baptism and removed afterwards. This would be less than ideal. Patsy Cox asked if the Diocese have said no, could we not adapt what we already have by providing improved facilities within the porch area and removal of the glass screen and doors at the back of the main transept? Geoff Poulter accepted the need to create a church that can worship together with the re-ordering of the sanctuary area perhaps, but we do require a better explanation from the Diocese. Anne Shardlow suggested the phrase used in the letter ‘rhythm of the structural frames’ was to preserve the architectural integrity. It is understood that the pillars form the main support of the church and could therefore not be removed. It is puzzling and needs further explanation. It was agreed that a delegation of parishioners should meet with the Liturgical Commission and follow this up with another open Parish meeting. Tony Hodgekiss suggested that the upper galleries could both be improved. David Owgan asked how much of the Year 2000 Fund would be used? Father Kieron felt this would be part of the next stage so was not for discussion at the moment. He felt it was important to preserve a realistic total in the Fund for usual repairs and maintenance.
Kevin Jamieson felt there could be lots more discussion on this, and invited all present to come through to the Parish Rooms for a drink. He thanked everyone present and asked Father Kieron to close the meeting with a prayer.
The meeting formally ended at 8.45pm.