Mark submitted a written parliamentary question to ask the Church Commissioners what steps the Church of England is taking to support the dioceses of Hereford and Lichfield, and what plans the Church of England has to support dioceses with large rural parishes.
Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, responded as follows:
Diocesan resourcing of mission and ministry is supported by congregational giving, historic investments and other income. Additional support is provided from national funds generated by the investments of the Church Commissioners and distributed by the Archbishops' Council.
The Diocese of Hereford has received:
- £1.172m of Lowest Income Communities Funding over 2020-22 to support mission and ministry in areas of low economic activity.
- £113k of Strategic Ministry Funding to help fund curates costs.
- £120k in 2020 to support work on congregational giving.
- £525k of Strategic Development Funding was awarded in 2017 towards a 5-year project supporting missioners in six parishes in the Diocese, including 3 of its market towns, focusing on reaching children and young people. More details can be found here.
The Diocese of Lichfield has received:
- £6.23m of Lowest Income Communities Funding over 2020-22 to support mission and ministry in areas of low economic activity.
- £850k to support diocesan finances in the light of the impact Covid-19.
- £1.690m of Strategic Development Funding in 2019 for a 6-year project to support ministry and mission in Telford, focusing strongly on social engagement and reaching children and young people. More details can be found here.
Through the Government's Culture Recovery Fund, parishes and cathedrals of the two dioceses have also received:
- Lichfield: 14 grants to parishes, totalling £379,141, and two grants to Lichfield Cathedral, totalling £152,900
- Hereford: 12 grants to parishes, totalling £304,678, and two grants to Hereford Cathedral, totalling £284,400
Rural parishes make up around 60% of the Church of England's footprint with approximately 10,000 buildings. These parishes serve about 17% of the population, with 91% of rural churches being listed. These rural churches are an important community asset as they are often the only public building left in their community and serve multiple purposes in addition to being a place of worship.
The Association of Festival Churches (The Association of Festival Churches) was recently formed with the express purpose of supporting mostly rural churches to expand community use of their church buildings, working with pre-existing specialist resources such as the Arthur Rank Centre to provide targeted guidance and advice for rural churches.