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Leaders at 1,000-year-old church concerned for future after coronavirus impact

PUBLISHED: 05:23 17 August 2020

St Remigius Church in Hethersett. From left, church warden Kate Wood, church treasurer Neil Sturgeon, John Head, Ros Head, church warden Michael White and the Rev Derek McClean. Picture: Peter Steward

St Remigius Church in Hethersett. From left, church warden Kate Wood, church treasurer Neil Sturgeon, John Head, Ros Head, church warden Michael White and the Rev Derek McClean. Picture: Peter Steward

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Keeping a Norfolk parish church open costs over £1,500 a week and finding that money has become more and more difficult during lockdown, it has been revealed.

St Remigius Church in Hethersett. Picture: Peter StewardSt Remigius Church in Hethersett. Picture: Peter Steward

Officials of St Remigius Church, Hethersett, state that the figure is the minimum amount needed and doesn’t take into account repairs, alterations or proposed changes to the building as the church plans a gradual return to some kind of “normality”.

Each year the church has to raise £75,000 from its congregation and members of the parochial church council admit that worrying about finances detracts from the pastoral work. This has particularly been the case during lockdown and the fear of a second spike of the virus.

Rector of Hethersett, the Rev Derek McClean, said: “We try not to let it, but there is no doubt that worrying about money detracts from what we do. We are running an historic building which is essentially a medieval and Victorian mish-mash and it is very draining.

“We have paid as much of our parish share as we can at the moment and it looks highly likely that we will be unable to meet our full share this year.”

St Remigius Church in Hethersett. Picture: Peter StewardSt Remigius Church in Hethersett. Picture: Peter Steward

The church has 92 regular givers who have continued to financially support it during lockdown, but the PCC has been frustrated by not being able to hold services, social events and fund-raisers and the rector has been unable to pay personal visits to support Hethersett parishioners as part of the church’s pastoral care programme.

The £75,000 figure includes the payment of an annual parish share of £46,500 to the Norwich Diocese towards wages, pensions and other costs. Every church is assessed on a number of criteria including size of the local population and congregation.

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Churches at Little and Great Melton both have to raise an additional £19,100 with Little Melton’s share £14,500 and Great Melton’s £4,600 bringing the total for the Hethersett Benefice of three churches to £65,600 a year.

St Remigius Church in Hethersett. The Rev Derek McClean. Picture: Peter StewardSt Remigius Church in Hethersett. The Rev Derek McClean. Picture: Peter Steward

St Remigius usually pays its parish share in 10 instalments of £4,650 but treasurer Neil Sturgeon admits that they may have “to draw a line” under 2020 and hope to return to payments in 2021.

Those figures do not take into account such day to day necessities as heating, lighting and insurance. Add to that other costs such as choir and organist expenses, security cameras, printing and much more and it all mounts up to more than £1,500 per week.

During lockdown the church has lost considerable revenue by not being able to hold weddings (23 in a year is the record) and funeral services (although burials have been possible) and other fundraising events such as the annual gift day which regularly brings in up to £7,000.

Church officials have no idea when it will be able to host such events although they are looking at having to have ticketed entry to the church for Remembrance Sunday, Harvest and Christmas (these will be free but will help to limit numbers). The annual gift day has provisionally been re-scheduled to September 27.

“We are living from day to day and it is so difficult to plan in the short term and even harder to plan for the longer term, particularly in the light of a possible second virus spike,” Mr McClean said.

The best estimate of “getting back to normality” is February or March. “We are all in new territory,” he added.

St Remigius Church was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 but there was a church in the village before that, probably on the same or a very close site. In 1997, the village celebrated 1,000 years of St Remigius with a village parade, suggesting that the church has been dated to the end of the 10th century.

“We’ve been here for over 1,000 years and we are fully committed to making sure this church is here for another thousand years, serving and being part of the community,” Mr McClean added.


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