FINANCIAL REPORT AND 2021 BUDGET
Director of Finance Kathryn Rose spoke to a paper outlining both long-term trends in Diocesan finances and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and possibly beyond.
Due to major efforts and commitment from parishes, 2020’s Free Will Offers (FWO—the contributions made by parishes to the Common Fund which pays to support parochial ministry) have held up better during the pandemic than was initially feared; however this still entails an anticipated shortfall of 8% to 9% or £700,000 by the end of the year. It remains to be seen how or if this recovers as the pandemic eases.
As previous Synods have noted, Free Will Offers to the Common Fund have broadly remained static since the system was introduced in 2014, and even without the pandemic the Synod would be considering ways to ensure the long-term financial viability of our mission and ministry in the light of this.
Projections suggest that by 2023 the available funds held by the Diocesan Board of Finance (DBF) will have fallen to the threshold of four months’ working capital (approximately £5m), set as the safe minimum sum to held in reserve.
Accordingly Synod heard that future planning must now include developing a picture for financial sustainability, as well as reviewing the vision and developing a ministry strategy. The timescale now requires us to consider reductions in the number of paid staff and office holders and a number of different scenarios are being modelled to support the consultations that will take place next year.
Synod approved the draft Diocesan Budget for 2021 contained in the motion, "This Synod approves the Budget for 2021 and authorises the Diocesan Board of Finance to expend a sum of £14,699,000 with the facility to draw up to £250,000 of contingency in addition from reserves."
TRANSFORMATION & STRATEGY; GENEROUS CHURCHES MAKING & NURTURING DISCIPLES
Bishop of Whitby Paul Ferguson introduced a brief update on some aspects of our programme of transformation and strategy, noting that much good work continues despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Multiply: Reaching those in their 20s to 40s
The team of ‘Multiply Ministers’ is now complete with all those funded by the national Church now in place. The Church Commissioners’ Strategy & Development Unit (SDU) has conducted its first formal review of the project and confirmed that its original ‘missional design’ remains fit for purpose, although the pandemic is likely to slow the prayed-for development of new worshipping communities in many locations. It was acknowledged that additional national funding might be sought to help address this.
Mustard Seed: Growing disciples in places where life is tough
Despite the pandemic, the ‘Stepping Up’ programme of developing and discipling local leaders in selected communities is now under way and already bearing fruit, with further locations due to launch in the new year. Team Leader Heather Black has been joined by part-tine Associate Team Leaders Liz Holdsworth and Canon Angela Bailey who bring skills of their own to the team. A review of progress of the nationally-funded project suggests that the pandemic is likely to slow progress in ways yet to be understood, but planning will take this into account and may involve seeking additional funding. Many individual stories of those already touched by Mustard Seed can be found at mseed.org.
Generous Giving and Stewardship
Anticipating that parishes’ short-term priority is likely to be recovery from the downward pressure on giving from the COVD-19 pandemic, the team is shifting its focus for the present from the wider nurture of a culture of generosity and gratitude to God to the promotion of practical giving mechanisms including the Parish Giving Scheme, trailed at previous Synods and now up and running in the Diocese. One of the team of three, David Smallwood, retired in September and time is being taken to identify what skills are required in the changed situation before recruiting a replacement.
Team Leader Jo Beacroft-Mitchell and Adviser Sammi Tooze gave a presentation of the resources, advice and (currently online) training offered by the GGS team, targeted on the real and changing needs of parishes to promote generous giving in support of ministry and mission; these can be explored and engaged with at dioceseofyork.org.uk/generosity.
EDUCATION, CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE
Diocesan Director of Education Andrew Smith updated Synod on implementing strategy for Children and Young People, linked to Growing Faith. Of its stated priorities of engaging with families in churches, schools and households, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a greater focus on households during 2020 and into 2021 and a consequent focus on developing resources and online events and support mechanisms. Meanwhile the particular needs of schools and teachers during the periods in which they have continued to work through the COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ have been addressed with further online support, training and forums. Assistant Director Olivia Seymour reported on the Children of Light Festival planned for 20 March 2021 and the Easter Pilgrimage project.
CLERGY COVENANT FOR WELLBEING
Synod heard a presentation on the new national Covenant from Archdeacon of Cleveland the Ven Dr Amanda Bloor, who has undertaken her own research into clergy wellbeing, and then split into groups to consider ways in which the recommendations of the Covenant can be translated into improved care for the wellbeing and mental health of those ministering in the Diocese of York.
BUSINESS WITH BISHOPS
The Synod approved Archbishop Stephen’s proposal to delegate certain functions to the Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Revd Glyn Webster, and to appoint the Rt Revd Richard Frith, a former Bishop of Hull who has moved to York following his retirement as Bishop of Hereford, as an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of York.