It was Wednesday evening and the PCC were gathered in the hall with copies of the agenda on their knees.
Outside it was raining but nothing could spoil the mood inside. They were having a lively and uplifting discussion about how they could build on their mission events after the Talking Jesus weekend. This was for their recently revamped parish magazine and website. The committee felt it was about time they started sharing just what good stuff the church was up to.
Mary had been quietly tutting to herself until she could take it no more. She burst out, “You lot are just blowing your own trumpets with all this ‘we’ve done this, we’ve done that’. It’s not right. It’s not British.”
“I don’t think it’s blowing our own trumpets Mary dear.” Said her husband David, tentatively. Mary had a temper and David was already in the doghouse after the sherry-cream-carpet incident last night.
Richard said wisely, “I think it actually is blowing our own trumpets, and I think that’s a good thing,” which made everyone turn in their seats. Something else was coming. He never left it at one comment.
“I think we should blow our own trumpets. Trumpets are used to get people’s attention. And the people whose attention we need to get are those out there”, he pointed at the window. It was still drizzling. It was England.
“They need to know what we’re about. That there’s help here. Maybe the ones in need of help can also be the ones to offer help, like Jan who does the biscuits.” Everyone nodded approvingly. Richard continued, “People should know what this church does. Like our‘crafternoon’. It’s doing really well! And I’ll be honest Mary, I will be, I had no idea about the music ministry that Barry set up. We should blow our own trumpets. This place is a bastion of the community.”
They’d already listed the coffee morning, Messy Church, the 24 baptisms they’d already conducted this year, all the sick people visited, youth outreach, Rev John’s ‘flower and glory’ flora and Bible classes, and countless community projects.
“It’s a lot of stuff isn’t it?” Rev John flicked through his notes. “I think it’s important that people see what their contributions are going towards, don’t you?”
“Not money again.” Groaned Tim. Tim had a pathological hatred of talking about money even on a good day, but tonight was worse. When parking outside the hall he’d mounted a bollard and couldn’t even bring himself to check the damage. A significant bill no doubt, not to mention the embarrassment, though he was fairly sure no-one had seen or heard. Still, money was the last thing he wanted to be reminded about. He was feeling entirely wretched with hints of irritableness.
“Well Parish Share is next on the agenda” said Rev John a bit defensively, “and I’m just saying, it’s great seeing what our contributions make possible.”
“But they don’t! All our money goes to the diocese!”
“We are the diocese,” corrected Mary, much to the delight of Richard.
Tim ignored her as she was spoiling his rant, and he felt like he really needed to rant. He’d reflect later that he was a bit rude, but that was for future Tim to worry about. Present day Tim was mid-flow. “We never see a penny of it. Parish Share just goes to the big black hole that’s the diocese. What have the diocese ever done for us?”
There was a murmur of agreement and nodding of heads. All eyes were now on Rev John, waiting for his answer. He couldn’t see this, as his head was in his hands. He was sorrowfully thinking that the meeting had been going so well until now.
His thoughts were interrupted by Richard asking him to explain to Tim what ‘the diocese’ (he did the inverted commas with his fingers which was quite annoying) actually did to support them.
Didn’t ANYONE know what parish share was for? Rev John wanted to shout but instead he composed himself and was about to answer when Anna piped up, “Well, there’s Reverend John. Parish share pays his stipend.” Another murmur of agreement. Some nods.
Mary joined in, “There’s the legal adviser. When we had all that bother with the architects, we rang the diocesan office and were given free, expert legal advice.” Heads nodded.
David who was desperate to impress his frightening wife Mary, added, “Yes, and remember when Andy the Youth Adviser came to tell us how to reach out to more young people? He ran Pulse last year, that big Youth night. It’s on again in March and they’ve got a comedian and band. And he put together Think About It, the Youth Conference. He’s organising Prayer Spaces in Schools training with Sharon the Diocesan Children’s Adviser, he’s running the Confirmation Overnighter, and a 6 week training course for youth workers.”
Rev John looked through his fingers at the PCC and a flicker of hope ignited. They were on a roll.
It was time for Richard to wade in.
“And when Amy was planning the summer camp she got an awful lot of support from Sharon, the Children’s Worker. And did you know…” he rather smugly addressed the room, “that she runs free Messy Church training days, Puppet Training Days, and Open the Book Training days? And there’s the 6 week Bishop’s Certificate in Children’s Ministry, there’s the Prayer project with training, resources and support, and there’s the Godly Play Network. And, she set up the Children’s Council so that school-aged Christians can have their voices heard…”
“…and there’s the admin staff, the clergy housing team, the faculties adviser, the legal adviser, the secretary. They’re all there to help us. Part of the money we contribute keeps them in post. And there’s the training up of new clergy. That’s where your parish share goes Tim. When Rev John and vicars like him retire, we need someone to replace them. Future clergy need training.”
Through a mouthful of biscuits, Barry blurted, “Free training and resources for the Start! mission course we’re running after the Talking Jesus mission.” He used his other custard cream to point as he sprayed biscuit, for extra effect.
Rev John was relieved. He breathed deeply.
Tim knew he was being unreasonable but it was far too late for reason. Still fuming about his careless parking, he couldn’t also cope with being contradicted over his opinions of the diocese, even in light of all this evidence. He had to go for it…
“Yes but apart from clergy stipends, pensions and housing, children and youth advisers, admin staff, training, legal advice, faculties, finance, mission and evangelism training courses and free resources, and the training up of new Readers and clergy… what has the diocese ever done for us?”
Suddenly the tension burst and everyone laughed. Everyone except Natalie who’d nipped out to the kitchen to prepare the coffees, and shouted around the door as a final volley “Media! Prayer support! Vocation support!”
Hurrah! The PCC was a buzz of excitement. Tim stroked his chin thinking it over, still looking unconvinced. Kevin, a pastry chef with bright red curly hair, turned to Rev John. He felt utterly bewildered tonight and wondered if anyone else in the room felt lost like him. He put up his hand.
“Yes Kevin, please, you don’t need to raise a hand.” Said Rev John. “What is it?”
“I actually didn’t know any of that John. I mean, I didn’t have a problem with our financial contributions going to the common fund, you know, Parish Share, and I hardly thought the diocesan office blew it all on week long retreats in Monaco, but I honestly didn’t know our parish share paid for all that stuff for us.”
Rev John stared. Did some people really not know this?
Richard made a suggestion, “Since we started off talking about our magazine and website, mightn’t it be a good idea to include something about what Parish Share goes towards, so people know? I imagine Kevin isn’t the only one.” He was right. It should go in the magazine. Richard had hit the spot, again. He was such a know-it all.
BEFORE YOU GO! You are very welcome (and indeed encouraged!) to use these blogs in parish magazines or as content for Home Groups etc. Please cite the website so others can find their way here.