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Open Parish Meeting
31st May 2005

The meeting was chaired by Mr. Kevin Jamieson, chairman of the Parish Finance Committee with Mr. Gerry Farrell, Parish treasurer and Father Kieron O’Brien, Parish priest.

Introduction and Welcome was made by Kevin.

The Opening Prayer was led by Father Kieron O’Brien.

Kevin explained that the portable loop system had been installed in the parish room to enable the hard of hearing to participate in the meeting. All questions from the floor would be repeated for their benefit. The Minutes of this meeting will be displayed on parish notice boards and on the website. To focus our thoughts an extract from a document by Pope John Paul II was read.

1. Finance Report: Gift Aid scheme.

Kevin Jamieson reported that our recent statement to the Diocese detailed 307 parishioners are currently signed up to the scheme, of which 70 have not given under the scheme over the past year. This removes the opportunity for the parish to claim back tax. There has been a decline in the amount claimed last year compared to the previous year. He stressed the importance of giving under the scheme, even if you do not have your numbered envelopes with you. So long as you provide the office with your name or your number, we can then claim back the tax already paid on your donation. He urged all present to please make an effort to help provide this considerable contribution to the parish’s income. The Diocese claimed over £1 million back though this scheme last year. It is a vital source of income and, provided you are a tax payer, you can help.

Finance Report: Gerry Farrell.

The general income from the parish for the first quarter (January to April) of this year is down on previous year. In order to balance the books, it will be necessary to take money from the Year 2000 Fund. This again stresses the importance of income from the Gift Aid scheme. Currently, we have no spare cash for other significant activities apart from the general day to day expenses of running the parish. Gerry again emphasised the statistics of 70 people, already part of the Gift Aid scheme, NOT contributing through the scheme over the last twelve months. He could not overstress the importance of this ‘lost’ money. This is money for nothing – simply complete a form and nothing else needs to be done. £1 a week in an envelope will help. If everyone contributed in this way, the annual income would be considerable.

Year 2000 Fund:

Gerry Farrell reported good news and was pleased to announce a recovery from 1999 – 2003 stockmarket problems. Income has increased from 1999 and grown. The £11,600 in the current account has increased to £13,800 so shows good growth. Asset values at 30th May 2004 were £150,000 and at 30th May 2005 £172,00. Liabilities remain the same with an increase of £24,000 or 14.9% per annum. The Investment House is managing our assets superbly and is ahead of the market. The Parish will be asking the Year 2000 Fund for money to help balance the books at the end of this year, due to the drop in income and increase in expenditure. The Year 2000 Fund meet in two weeks’ time when the current account will reduce its balance by £11,200 to pay for works completed and in the planning stages. Brian Taylor will expand on this in his report. It does include replacement fencing in St. Richard’s Church car park, refurbishment of three shower rooms and the bathroom in the presbytery, Bosham car park, security etc. It will be prudent to leave the assets in the Year 2000 Fund, and take only from the current account.

Kevin Jamieson thanked Gerry for his reports. He did not propose to go through all the figures produced and circulated to the parish but would take any questions from the floor.

Fr. Thomas: What is the Year 2000 Fund? This was set up some years ago (1985?) and invited parishioners to give interest free loans to the Parish so that a large sum of money would be available to pay for repairs and maintenance throughout the parish. It was one of the best initiatives undertaken in this parish and has proved its worth over the years. Many parishioners have, over the years, converted their original loans to gifts, so there are very few remaining as loans.

2. Buildings sub-committee: Chairman Brian Taylor.

Brian explained this is a small sub-committee, part of the Parish Finance Committee, which looks after, on your behalf, the buildings and assets of the parish. We cannot let the fabric of the buildings deteriorate, so money is spent, on your behalf, in rectifying any problems which arise. A recent Quinquennial Surveyors Report of all buildings (a requirement by the Diocese) gives a reasonable indication of what needs to be done. The parish also had a Disability Access appraisal – a requirement for all public buildings – which considers the needs of the disabled, hard of hearing, partially-sighted and immobile. Work is on-going to meet these needs. The committee employs a maintenance man once a month to undertake small projects within the areas of St. Richard’s church and presbytery, the parish rooms and the Church at Bosham. This is a paid arrangement which is directed from the parish office. Any tasks required are reported to the Parish Office and this is where he receives his instructions.

Works completed recently within the parish are: heating at St. Richard’s Church. The system is very out of date but we are managing to keep it going, with the help of a good contractor who undertakes repairs and maintenance. The shower rooms and bathroom at the presbytery have been refurbished. The hedge at the front of St. Richard’s Church has been cut back severely and has received, in the main, the general approval of parishioners. The back fence adjacent to the car park at St. Richard’s Church has been repaired together with larch lap fencing to provide screening and security for St. Richard’s Nursery School. Our thanks to the School, who contributed to the cost of this. The balcony above the porch of St. Richard’s Parish room has been repaired and made safe. Internally, handrails to the stairs to both galleries at St. Richard’s have been renewed and made good. Handrails on the side steps of the sanctuary at St. Richard’s Church will be in place soon and will allow access onto the sanctuary for the less able.* The price of installing CCTV in and around the Blessed Sacrament Chapel area has been agreed and will be installed soon.* This will enable us to keep the chapel open, subject to surveillance from the Parish Office. Decisions by this committee on such matters are only taken with full consultation with Fr. Kieron.

Bosham is in need of external paint work and repairs. Over the last two years, it has not been economical to repair and bring up to ‘as new’ standard, so make do and mend is the policy here. Handrails up to the entrance of Bosham church are currently in preparation. (Two items * above have now been completed.) One of the ramps at Bosham is too steep and will be converted to shallow steps, to make it more accessible. More attention is needed to the heating system at Bosham Church, which is in need of regular repairs. Currently running on oil, it may be more economical to convert to gas, but this will be a major expenditure and is currently under discussion. The back fence at Bosham needs replacing as it borders onto a public footpath. Quotes are currently being sought for this work. Provision of disabled toilet facilities are also needed at Bosham but this would be a major project. The committee members are listed on the Parish Report, which was circulated with the newsletters a week ago. This committee is not all about spending money. Much of the work is carried out by members on a DIY basis using their skills and experience in the repairs and maintenance field. Susan Line pointed out that volunteers had recently renovated the toilet at Bosham and made an excellent job of it. Roz Davies pointed out that the light bulbs at Bosham could not be changed without the use of a scaffold tower. There are insurance implications about these sorts of tasks. A kitchen at Bosham was also considered to be a priority.

A vote of thanks was given to Brian Taylor and his team for the excellent job they do.

3. Update on Church Development Project

Father Kieron: He commenced his report by offering his personal thanks to the Finance and Buildings Committees, who are always busy with various tasks around the Parish. He also offered his particular thanks to John Frost and his team for the excellent Parish website – one of the best. As regards the Project: very little has happened over the last 12 months. A year ago, proposed plans to extend the canopy area left of the nave (a troublesome area due to the men of the road) and extend out the corner between the main and north transept to accommodate the baptismal font has been rejected. The original reasons for these proposals were: 1) Provide more gathering space for both entering and exiting the church. 2) Create suitable space and a rightful liturgical place for the font. 3) Re-design the reconciliation room in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to adhere to the Child Projection recommendations. Our plans were found to be unacceptable to the Diocesan Arts and Architecture Commission. Any building project within liturgical space must be approved by the AAC on behalf of the Diocese. Without approval, we would not be able to use, even our own, money. A small negotiating group, with Father Kieron, are in negotiations with the Diocesan Arts and Architecture committee, together with our own architect. The Parish has been asked to re-think the plan to make it more functional, suggesting that it ‘did not respect the integrity of the present building.’ Further drawings were suggested by the Diocesan architect which are rather different from the original criteria but fulfil the needs of the parish in a very different way. This new plan would involve extending the porch out from the front of the church towards the hedge with a mini piazza area, which would cut off the present parking area. The Diocese suggest ‘any porch should open directly into the church space.’ The second phase would fulfil the need for extra capacity by building out on either side of the main nave, retaining support columns and putting up a pitched roof. This would increase the capacity of the church adequately, although space elsewhere would be lost to re-position the baptismal font. Currently more detailed drawings and costings and a serious viability study is being undertaken. Father Kieron’s personal view is ‘to do nothing is not an option.’ The main church is often uncomfortably full. To remain static, with the possibility that the number of Masses may be reduced in the future, the need for larger accommodation for fewer masses is inevitable. The re-location of the font and the need for a larger gathering space will be kept to the fore at all times. A more concrete proposal, together with costings and funding proposals will be for another parish meeting. David White enquired if these proposed changes would commence in the next twelve months. Fr. Kieron suggested that a proper business plan is needed before commencement and he does not see this happening, realistically, for at least a further twelve months. Sally Minton asked about the provision of further meeting space (porch) as this has been on the original proposal. The latest plan may not provide a big enough space for this at present. Megan Hadden asked about the Repository. This would be included but no details have yet been reached. The basic cruciform shape of the building would be retained if the second proposals (extend the main nave on both sides) were used. This would produce a more squat cross shape. Hazel Johnston asked if this would help increase visibility between the main and north transept. This would be improved by a small margin.

4. Provision for Young People.

Fr. Kieron is increasingly aware of this gap in the services provided by the Parish. When children move on from Primary to Secondary schools, it is increasingly difficult to keep them involved in parish life. There is a proposal to employ someone in the youth ministry with input from Bognor parish too. It is more viable to employ someone to serve both parishes. Work is needed to draw up a job specification, with description, salary, time division between parishes etc. Any feedback on this topic would be welcomed by Fr. Kieron via the Parish Office. Maria Whitehouse supported the idea wholeheartedly. The children from both areas (Chichester and Bognor) now know each other through attending St. Philip Howard High School. Mary Flaxbeard asked Fr. Kieron to expand on the idea. The concept of the job is to provide outreach, not only through the Schools, but via the Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation groups. Most other churches (CTiC) have a youth worker who provides ongoing formation the wider sense of the word, to include those on a gap year, residential programmes, and develop their faith. There are skilled workers available in this somewhat specialised field but a good salary would be needed to attract the high calibre candidate required. This is not an easy answer as to why young people drift away from the church but it would provide something more and an opportunity to tap into the resources, which are already available. The candidate would spend time making contacts, helping young people to continue their faith journey from primary school and beyond. If our young people then move on to university, they will be better equipped to come back to the parish and become involved again. Mary Downy pointed out that this year’s First Communion group, the biggest ever at 60 candidates, would be an excellent group to start with, as they approach their move to secondary school in 3 to 4 year’ time. Hazel Johnston suggested a show of hands at this meeting, which was overwhelming supportive. Brian Taylor offered his support as his observation of St. Richard’s Parish is of a community with a very wide spread of ages, perhaps more than most. St. Philip Howard High School provides a central focal point from which to start. Would these activities be supported by the whole Deanery, thus spreading the financial burden? This idea had been put forward at a Deanery meeting, and Chichester, Bognor and Storrington were keen to combine over it, but there is hesitation over the geographical spread and the distribution of labour. The involvement of the School is of the utmost importance. It will be a difficult jigsaw to put together. Mr. Flaxbeard felt the religious growth and development of all children should initially be the parents’ role and any subsequent involvement with a youth worker should be in tandem with the parents. Fr. Kieron explained that the whole vision involves a partnership between school, parish and home.

5. News from the Pastoral Team.

Martin Downy: This parish organisation was formed three years ago as an evolving process for developing the life of the Parish. All aspects of the Parish and its pastoral team are contained in our Parish Directory. The Team cover seven areas of parish life: Small groups, ecumenism, adult formation, liturgy, marriage & family life, social concerns and youth. Bosham is represented by two of our members and both clergy members are part of the team. The Vision statement is also contained in the directory. We meet monthly with each meeting preceded by Evening Prayer in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Our aims and objectives include an extract from the Papal encyclical on laity involvement. We are looking towards diminishing numbers of clergy so the role of the laity increases in commitment and importance. There are only a small number of items/activities in a parish which are exclusive to clergy. As we continue to develop spiritually, pastorally and socially, we are encouraged to take the lead in each of our areas of speciality and bring forward views and ideas, and at the same time, identify areas for further development. We receive useful input from the Diocesan Pastoral Team, in particular Barbara Wallace. We have developed the ministry of welcome which is now more structured and is more than just handing out newsletters. On arrival at a strange church, visitors and newcomers are made to feel welcome. This is very much part of what the parish should be about. There has been a recent Youth Development Project in Guildford parish. Many of their ideas could be put to good use here. Parishioners’ ideas are taken up and discussed by the team. For example, liturgical suggestions can always be put to a member of the team. The Guide Hall in Whyke Lane was recently up for sale, and discussions took place as to whether this may be a suitable asset for our own parish use. Ideas are discussed and examined. The purchase of a minibus has been another topic for discussion. There is a current initiative to offer lifts to church for those who may not otherwise be able to attend Mass. We should all be reaching out to those who may not feel involved.

Parish Visiting: this is now more co-ordinated. Records are kept and the gaps are being filled. The Minutes of our meetings are available in the church porches and on the parish website, so information is always available. Fr. Kieron added to Martin’s report that Barbara Wallace had provided us with three informative sessions about volunteering. The church depends hugely on them. There will soon be the introduction of a service agreement, in which there will be a description of the Parish’s expectations, your commitment, time limit, what support you can expect as a volunteer, and what training will be given. This will make it very clear as to where we all stand and what is expected of us. The Church is not good at training etc. This Service Agreement is a requirement under the Child Protection scheme and will be essential to protect both the church as an organisation and all volunteers. Hazel Johnston expressed alarm at the scheme and felt it would cause more volunteers to leave than to join. Confronted with a piece of paper outlines one’s duties and commitments seems to bringing the outside world very much into the Church and may put people off. Fr. Kieron assured all present that evidence does not suggest this to be the reaction. Mr. Chris Dwyer felt it was very important to stress that this did not constitute a Contract of Employment. No-one is asked to sign anything. It is an expectation rather than a job description. Brian Pointer felt we should, as a parish, support the initiative as it basically describes and clearly defines our role, and the support offered to us by the Parish. Martin Downy suggested this would really be intended for new volunteers rather than those already involved. Children’s liturgy would be a good case in point. New recruits do not necessarily know what they should be doing so a job description would be very helpful. Father Kieron acknowledged Hazel’s concerns but felt this would clarify parishioners’ roles within the structure of the Parish and help us provide resources that could be more widely accessed. John Frost pointed out that, more often than not, people prefer to be personally invited to join organisations and that auditing skills (via a parish census) would be the systematic way forward.

Father Kieron added that each member of the pastoral team has their particular area of expertise, so support would always be given. Sally Minton expressed concern about people working with children receiving a police check under the Child Protection scheme. Again, this may be off-putting. Fr. Kieron explained that new volunteers would be invited along to see what is done (ie Children’s Liturgy) and then be asked to join – a gentle, slow approach. Some felt that the more tentative may be put off by this procedure and may not even come forward if it is too formalised. A service agreement is quite a long way down the line at the moment, but we should, in the meantime, take the opportunity to talk it through, introduce training and induction before an agreement is drawn up to satisfy all parties. It does not need to be a threatening process and must be done sensitively and gently. Any concerns should be addressed to the Parish Office.

6. Any other business:

1) Molly Morgan suggested the playing of appropriate taped music before Sunday Masses, to help quieten minds and discourage chatter. As creatures of habit, chatting comes naturally as people enter church for Mass. Music may act as a deterrent and put us in a more reflective frame of mind. The Café sessions had discussed this over the last few weeks, and were keen to try it. Fr. Thomas had implemented the idea over the last couple of weeks and found it does encourage quiet and a period of prayer.

2) Prudence Dwyer pointed out that this has been a Fairtrade Parish since 22nd March and as such, should use fairly traded products wherever possible. Fr. Kieron pointed out that the wine served after this meeting was indeed fairly traded.

3) Paula Barrett asked if the phone system in the Parish Office/Presbytery could be automated in some way, so that those requiring mass times would get a recorded message, voice mail could accept private calls to the priests and the parish office could deal with other calls. Hazel agreed this was a sound idea, but asked that no music be used when callers are waiting. It was an area that could be looked into for improving efficiency when receiving calls.

The meeting ended at 9pm with a Blessing from Father Kieron. Light refreshments were served.