CHURCH TERMS EXPLAINED
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What is an interregnum?
As you know, Stephen, our vicar of 31 years, retired at Easter and has moved away. It was very sad not to be together with him on Easter Day and not to be able to say our personal goodbyes. Everyone rallied round with cards and messages for him – he was “overwhelmed”.
So, you may be thinking, ”why isn’t there a replacement for Stephen here now?”
That is because, in the Church of England, there is always a planned gap – a time for reflection – before a new appointment. The old fashioned term is interregnum - which, in effect, means that there is “vacancy between leaders”.
As Stephen said in his final parish circular:
“The process of choosing my successor cannot begin until I have gone. There are good reasons for this. It prevents me influencing the choice, allows St Thomas’ to discover what it is without me and discourages the temptation to react when making the appointment.
Taking some time also gives the Diocese of London the chance to consider if any changes to the way parishes are organised in this area might be beneficial. We’re already ‘grouped’ with St John Brownswood Park, which is just across Blackstock Road. It is still in Finsbury Park, if in another borough.”
The Diocese of London, through the Area Dean and Archdeacon are there to support us with this work, helping to ensure that there is no real vacancy in the cure of souls at St Thomas’. The church wardens and members of the PCC and congregation now have responsibility for various activities.
We are fortunate to have the support of Revd. Pauline Nashashibi. Pauline says: “It is a joy and a privilege for me to be back at St Thomas’, to assist the PCC at this time, serving as priest until a new vicar is appointed, taking a lead in worship and sharing in your journey of faith”.
The vacancy period would be a challenge at any time – in the current scenario, where we can’t get together, it is even more challenging.
The PCC have met virtually twice and the process of finding a new vicar for St Thomas’ is beginning:
The church wardens and PCC officers have met the Bishop of Stepney.
The PCC have elected representatives to lead on the process of preparing a statement describing the conditions, needs and traditions of the parish and to represent the congregation in connection with the selection of the new vicar.
We’ll keep everyone in touch as the process develops – we need to all share this – as Stephen said to the congregation – all of us - “You are St Thomas’”.
...and we all look forward to being able to thank Stephen when gatherings are allowed – let’s make it the best party we’ve ever had at St Thomas’!
Who funds St Thomas’? What is the “Common Fund”- why does it matter ?
Our money, apart from rental income and grants, comes from the personal donations of the congregation – made through the Parish Giving Scheme (PGS), a regular direct debit, and by cash in the collection. We all have different incomes and commitments – the church does not ask for more than people can afford but, in order to survive financially, St Thomas’s needs to receive more from the congregation – churches don’t receive money from the government as people sometimes imagine.
St Thomas’ is not a “stand-alone” church - it is part of the Church of England Diocese of London and so there are two threads in St Thomas’s expenditure:
We pay directly, ourselves, for some of the basic running costs for our buildings - heating, lighting, insurance, building repairs, materials for services etc.
We contribute towards the Common Fund which pays clergy salaries, pension contributions, housing, training etc. The Common Fund also allows the Diocese and Deaneries to support parishes in many ways. For instance, at St Thomas’, we have benefitted from guidance and training (in person and online) on safeguarding; human resources and governance advice; learning and development opportunities for clergy and lay members; advice on managing our buildings & property; guidance for our environment and sustainability projects; help and advice on Parish Finance and Fundraising; membership of the PGS which saves us so much work; and the Parish Buying scheme for group buying.
The Common Fund (sometimes referred to as Diocese Fair Shares) is money given by congregations in every parish in the Diocese of London. It is collected from rich and poor parishes alike. Supporting one full-time priest in a parish and contributing a fair share of the costs of other activities was estimated to amount to around £83,000 per parish in 2019. St Thomas’ has never yet paid its full contribution to the Common fund – but has steadily been working towards doing so. In 2019 we contributed about £71k meaning that St Thomas’ was subsidised by other congregations in the Diocese by about £12k. A full share for 2020 would be £85k – we are unable to contribute anywhere near that figure and are therefore asking for a larger subsidy this year.
Why is it significant that we don’t pay our full costs?
We need – and want - a new vicar, therefore we need to show we are a viable congregation which can significantly sustain itself.
Now we have no vicar, surely we are saving the salary etc?
As you can see above, the Diocese pays salaries and the figures are averaged out across the Diocese. The congregation of St Thomas’s needs help and support during the interregnum and to appoint the new vicar.
Are we able to obtain alternative sources of income from elsewhere?
We normally receive rent (about £16k pa) from organisations using the parish rooms – this will be less this year due to COVID-19.
For our buildings, St Thomas’ is fortunate to have access to grants from local charity Cloudesley – their grants have enabled many repairs and improvements in our buildings as we described on the first page.
Couldn’t the Diocese contribute more?
In 2019 the cost of sustaining the Church of England in London was about £35 million. About 75% of that was to house and pay the clergy, and to provide for their pensions. The Diocese receives no money from the state for mission or ministry. However it is fortunate in that it has some resources from ‘yesterday’s congregations’ which are invested in property and funds. The income is used to help pay the costs of keeping clergy in parishes, and to contribute towards the wider work of the Church of England.
What can we do?
If you want St Thomas’ to be here for you and the community, now and in the future, please think about your contribution.
If you’d like to know more, please see:
The PCC (Parochial Church Council):
works with the vicar in promoting the mission of the church.
is responsible for the care and upkeep of the church which includes maintenance and repair of the church buildings, churchyard and moveable objects
has overall charge of all expenditure with the support of the treasurer
members are Trustees of the church, with responsibilities under charity law.
The vicar and the PCC have a duty to consult together on matters of general concern and importance to the parish, and to co-operate in promoting in the parish the whole mission of the church: pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical. This includes almost everything to do with the church’s work in the parish, and its relationship with the deanery and the diocese. The members of the PCC are the representatives of the congregation.
Who are the members of St Thomas’s PCC?
churchwardens and lay workers/pastoral assistants licensed to the parish
12 lay representatives of the parish elected at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM)
lay members of the Deanery Synod, who are on the electoral roll of the parish
and, normally, the vicar.
St Thomas’s has no vicar at the moment, what does that mean for the PCC?
The PCC has a key role overseeing the arrangements to keep the church functioning well in the interregnum and in the process of selecting a new vicar.
What’s the position now - the Annual Parish Meeting, planned for 5th April, was postponed?
The Diocese has allowed us to postpone the meeting until later in the year – meanwhile, current PCC members can continue.
However, as soon as possible at this critical time for the church, the meeting and elections will happen. A third of the PCC will retire and new members must be elected to replace them.
The PCC meets about six times a year. The Diocese offers a range of training courses for PCC members.
Please consider if you would be able to serve St Thomas’s by being a PCC member at this important and interesting time.
If you would like to discuss this, please contact us
If you would like more information on the role of PCCs and their members, please see: