The way the Diocese of York runs its finances is called Free Will Offer – and it works in a way something like the way some families sort out their money too. Some churches are rich and others are poor and we share what we have so everyone has enough.
The principles behind Free Will Offer are at least as old as our Christian faith. Each one of us is called to freely offer what God has given us to support God’s work, and bound together in one community, we share what we have so that no-one is in need, and everyone has enough.
As the body of Christ here in our Diocese of York we are a community of love seeking to share together in building the kingdom of God. So each PCC makes its Free Will Offer to our Diocesan Common Fund to share out what God has given amongst the Diocesan family.
Every penny of the Free Will Offering made by parishes finds its way back to parishes through paying for the stipends, pension and housing of some of our clergy – in fact, Free Will Offer doesn’t quite cover that cost.
This year we know that times are exceptionally hard for everyone and every parish because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Not being able to worship together during lockdown, and facing continuing restrictions on our worship now, has caused challenges for all of our parishes in receiving regular giving from our usually committed congregations.
Many churches have been finding new ways of receiving those gifts online, and this has made a huge difference for those churches willing and able to make this change. In many other churches, money which has been set aside during the lockdown is now arriving in the collection plate, and we give thanks for the faithful commitment of those who continue to give in this way.
However, a lack of other income from hall lettings, fees for weddings and so on mean that, even with the regular commitment of those who give every week, many parishes have seen a fall in income, and have had to reduce their Free Will Offer as a consequence.
And although the income coming in has reduced, clergy and staff working across the diocese need to be paid so the gap between our income as a family and our costs is widening.
Yes, the Church of England has historic resources that other Christian denominations don’t.
Through income from Glebe land and other investments this inheritance still helps support the costs to which we’re committed, but we can only use income from most of these funds (not capital) and despite careful management they just don’t produce as much income as they once did.
During the pandemic we have been doing what we can to reduce costs at diocesan level, making full use of furlough whilst still helping parishes find ways through new and existing challenges, offering advice and support, sharing best practice and helping churches get back to a ‘new normal’
As a Diocesan family we are called to do our best to support each other practically in mission through Free Will Offer.
What is Free Will Offer for? It’s the way the Diocesan family pays to support ministry in places where ministry needs paid support.
It’s what families do.