Rector’s Letter - January 2004
My dear friends,
A building of such antiquity and history as Astbury often communicates a feel of the eternal and changeless nature of God. People come from miles around to visit us. It is not however our visitors who have the responsibility of its upkeep, nor are they the ones responsible for Christian witness in our community - those responsibilities belong to you and me.
We who come to share in services, who look at this place as ours, we are the true “Astbury Church”, and this great building of beauty is our home for the worship of God. Through times past this true church, the people, have committed themselves to the support of mission and charity, the employment of ministers of the Gospel, and to the development and maintenance of this great church building. Now I am coming to you, the Church, to ask you to do that again.
God is calling us forward. We must keep the Church well maintained; we must develop the building to allow proper access to worship for those hard of hearing or less mobile; we must pay our way in the Diocese and we must grasp the wonderful opportunity of a young and talented Curate to share in developing our outreach and our pastoral ministry.
And here’s the rub. This must all be paid for.
Over a number of years, with the reduction of central support for local church finances, the Diocese of Chester have been asking for 12% per annum increases in our contributions. Our income, namely the money you give week by week, has simply not kept pace. Despite growing congregations it can take a number of years for new members to develop the habit of supporting the Church’s ministry by their giving.
I must ask you all to review how you may be able to support our calling:
1. If you consider Astbury is “your church”, does a significant part of your income go to supporting it as it should?
2. Bearing in mind that more is being demanded of us from central funds, please increase the proportion of your income that you give to Church. Don’t forget that if you set your level of giving some years ago, costs incurred by the Church may have risen many times over since then.
3. If your income has increased (even if just by inflation) since you first set your level of giving at Church, please update what you give accordingly. It may now only be worth a fraction of what it was when you started and need revising upwards significantly.
4. As well as giving regularly to support the day to day ministry of the Church, we must spend over a quarter of a million pounds on the Church building during this coming year. We will receive some support from English Heritage and other groups, but a great proportion of that cost will be borne by us. The weekend of 31st Jan & 1st Feb will have raising this money as it’s focus. Whether you are able to give £10,000 or just £100... or just the penny of the widow’s mite, please use this weekend to make a gift to this essential work.
5. Beware the temptation of robbing Peter to pay Paul. We have noticed in the last year that as giving to our Appeal Fund has increased, our day to day income has reduced! Without thinking some have simply redirected to the appeal what would they would have given to the Church anyway. We do not intend to reduce our own charitable giving as a Church, please beware of doing so yourself without thinking.
The Bible teaches that Christian giving is a sacrifice and a joy, so I expect we will find it both. It also teaches that as you give so shall you receive. Accordingly, I trust you will find 2004 a year when you are blessed according to the measure that you are a blessing.
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