Last updated 17th June 2020
There are many implications for how we maintain and enable our institutional life to continue nationally, as a diocese and in parish. These notes are intended to offer guidance to help you be the ‘living stones ‘(1 Peter 2:5) to be the Church in our parishes.
We are approaching the season of the Annual Church Meetings. This meeting is required by our Church Representation Rules and the Churchwardens Measure 2001 and with new regulations this year should take place before the end of May. It is preceded by a meeting where churchwardens are elected and is the meeting at which new church officers are elected for the year ahead. Clearly, the pandemic has led to advice about gatherings that mean these meetings will probably not be able to happen. The Diocesan Bishop has today extended the time for such elections.
The general effect of the instrument Bishop Julian has signed and dated extends the time for parishes to hold their annual meetings to the end of October, with current office holders (churchwardens, deanery synod representatives and PCC members) remaining in office longer than they would otherwise do so.
Deanery synod representatives elected in 2017 will remain in office until 30 November 2020 (instead of 30 June 2020). This is to prevent the problems that would otherwise arise if dioceses had to ascertain the electorate for the House of Laity of the General Synod on the basis of parish elections taking place up to 31 May.
It is possible that the elections to the General Synod that are due to take place this summer will not now go ahead. However, no decision has yet been taken about that; and we would need Parliament to pass legislation to prevent the current General Synod from being automatically dissolved later this year. We will provide an update as soon as there is anything to report.
There has also been an enquiry about the revision of the electoral roll. New people may be added to the role in the normal way but it is anticipated that in line with the above it is expected that the roll will continue in existing form until an APCM can take place.
A consequence of the above is the likely need to postpone Visitation services at which churchwardens are admitted to office. Again, we will advise you soon of this.
To help churches at this time, some church management systems have made their products free to use for the next few months so now may be a time to look into these, even if you eventually decide to cancel at the end of the trial period.
If you are only interested in Online Giving, Data Developments have an online giving service called MyDonate Online. They have just made this free for 90 days (after which you can cancel). There will be charges for transactions and you can use it to reclaim Gift Aid both for people who donate through it and also for those that don’t. You can find details here https://www.datadevelopments.co.uk/services/. There is no requirement to continue to use it after the trial ends and they say once churches reopen there will be 30 days to download your data before they stop you using it.
Stephanie Rankin, the Diocesan Stewardship Officer, has provided an insight into how her parish has benefited from using a Church Management System
'Our church is on the edge of Preston with a membership or around 100 and average attendance of 70 to 80. Our website had a church management system attached but, to be honest, nobody really knew what it did, so we didn’t use it. In January 2017, whilst we were in vacancy, I started to explore it and gradually we have used more and more components to simplify our administration.
The first thing we used was the event calendar and rota reminder system,. Anyone with a responsibility at a service receives a reminder by email a few days before the event which also prompts them to let a named person know if they find they can’t be there. Now we don’t find ourselves wondering whether the person doing intersessions will turn up, nor do we have to ring people to remind them. It also identifies rota clashes so people can’t end up in Junior Church and also running the sound desk. A great facility is that it provides a calendar feed of my varied responsibilities directly to my personal calendar so I can see what I’m doing week by week without having to add all the events.
We then started to use the emailing function which means those with access to that part of the systems can email the whole church family or specific groups within the church from any computer connected to the internet. No longer do we find that someone was missed off a distribution list and if necessary can also check whether people have opened important emails. Without this we might have found that all our emails distribution lists were stored on the church computer, locked in the church, but we can access from our homes without any problems and our administrator sends a weekly bulletin to the whole church.
The last area to be added was the giving module. Last year we started to use it to claim our Gift Aid but had not set up online payments as almost all the giving is by standing order anyway so we were not concerned about normal church giving. However, we are working with our community to provide help for vulnerable families so wanted to start a fund to collect for that and decided now was the time to add online giving to our site. It took about a day to get the Stripe Account approved, using the new certificate that can be downloaded from A Church near You to prove our charitable status. We’ve now also added giving to the church as well as to an appeal that would have been a fundraising event but of course can’t go ahead now. One of our octogenarians messaged to say how easy it was to donate (she doesn’t do online banking).
So, I now can’t imagine trying to organise church in ‘normal times’ without a church management system and in times like these it is a key tool to maintain our communications and ministry.
You can see what the online giving looks like from this page here. There are 3 funds, and each looks different. The church giving enables one off and regular giving whilst COVID19 is only for one off donations. Both enable people to Gift Aid. The ‘Alice’ appeal replaces a fundraising event and has no Gift Aid option.
The Diocesan HR Manager Andrew.email@example.com has produced a couple of documents for PCCs who wish to consider furloughing staff as per the government's funding support package announced earlier in the COVID lockdown process.
HMRC have provided an update on the job retention scheme on 29th May here
PCC meetings will not be able to take place in the normal form for some time. You may feel able to conduct some business by email and it is possible to use various electronic means to hold meetings by Skype, Zoom or Conference Call. So long as these meetings are recorded by minutes in the usual way or can be audio recorded for transcription this would be valid. However, it may well be that you should be considering how much work may be delegated to your PCC Standing Committee, who can have significant executive powers where necessary.
There is some helpful information on how to run a PCC meeting via Zoom from CPAS; a patron for a number of our parishes here.
As schools (both county and church) work through the logistics of opening their buildings to more pupils, they may approach PCCs to utilise church halls as readily available additional space. Archdeacon David (Chair of the Board of Education) has produced some high level guidance for PCCs to consider here, should you be approached.