Funding blow for priests in South Yorkshire town

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CHURCH leaders are drawing up plans to conduct their work in Doncaster with fewer paid priests.

As worshippers swell their congregations to celebrate Easter tomorrow, the borough’s churches are looking at bringing in more voluntary clergy to deal with a double financial blow of higher costs and more difficulties raising money because of the current economic conditions.

Energy bills have increased significantly to pay for heating and lighting, while insurance premiums are also on the rise because of metal thieves having struck in places of worship.

Now a review has been launched to see how the Church can continue to provide the services it currently does.

It could mean looking to use more self-supporting clergy, who are unpaid, although there would still be paid priests.

At present, Anglican churches in the borough have to raise in the region of £2 million a year to pay for running costs including paying for vicars, heating, lighting and other costs related to their buildings.

But some of the borough’s 36 parishes have been struggling to meet their financial targets - some falling around 50 per cent short. Some more affluent parishes are still meeting their targets.

The Archdeacon of Doncaster, the Ven Steve Wilcockson, said: “There are still people who think we get Government grants for parish churches. We don’t. We only get grants for the Grade I listed buildings.

“We are looking at strategically placing our mission personnel so we have got a sustainable strategy for the 21st century.

“We are in good spirits and we think there is a good future.”

But he paid tribute to the efforts of Church communities to raise case, and said some of the most generous donors were often those who were not the wealthiest people.

Churches in the borough raise money through fund raising activities, and from renting out church halls, as well as the traditional collection plates.

But borough clergy are aware that some of the borough’s traditional communities have lost the traditional source of their local wealth, through changes such as colliery closures.

The archdeacon said many people donated money to the Church because it was what they wanted to do.

In addition to the usual running costs of parishes, many churches are also looking at specific projects to fix damage to their buildings.

Doncaster Minster is looking at raising millions for a range of work to the Victorian landmark.

Sprotbrough residents have raised around £150,000 to restore the roof, beams and rusty metal structures to the Grade I listed St Mary’s Church building in their village.

St Mary’s Church in Tickhill also launched a major fundraising campaign to fund repair work to its medieval building, which dates back to Norman times. Its appeal aimed to raise £195,000.

St Lawrence Church in Hatfield had to raise £50,000 in a few weeks after lead was stolen from its church roof last year. The target was reached within a few weeks and the roof has been fixed.

Mr Wilcockson said he would encourage as many people as possible to come and celebrate Easter together in their parish churches this Sunday.