You can imagine our shock, then, when we read in the media about what is supposedly happening to our beloved church. That the parish system, with its beautiful vision of serving every inch of the country and every person in it, is being systematically dismantled. That clergy are being made redundant. That there are plans to somehow centralise everything and for services, even beyond Covid, to be online rather than in person.
So let us try to set the record straight. There are no plans to dismantle the parish network. We are committed to our calling to be a Christian presence in every community.
Throughout our history, some churches have closed and others have opened. We weep at the former and rejoice at the latter. But it is not new. The untold story is that in recent years the Church of England has planted or renewed at least 100 new congregations and churches.
Far from withdrawing from the poorest areas, there is a huge effort towards growing congregations and supporting ministry in those areas — including rural areas, where we invest £10 per head of population compared with £6 per head in urban areas.
Meanwhile, the suggestion that all we do is cut back clergy numbers is not only untrue and unhelpful, it creates unnecessary anxiety. We need more clergy and they are coming forward in record numbers. And where dioceses are saving posts, it is usually through retirements.
“The aim is to make each parish & Christian community sustainable. If that doesn’t happen, there will be no @churchofengland. To do it requires generosity & sacrifice.”
— Michael Sadgrove 🇪🇺 (@MichaelSadgrove) February 12, 2021