Covid-19 has left the Diocese of Sodor and Man in dire financial straits, a new report reveals.
The concerns are laid out in the Diocesan Strategy for Church Buildings 2020, which warns that the financial impact of three months of lockdown on the diocese and its churches has been “catastrophic”.
“Dwindling returns” from parishes have left the diocese facing a “financial black hole”, with predictions that it will “run out of money” in five years “maximum”.
“Sooner in reality as PCCs will continue to run out of money,” the report reads.
The warning comes from the Diocesan Strategic Review Group, which was tasked with conducting a review of buildings in the diocese and their place in carrying out the mission of God.
The report warns that the diocese may have to sell off buildings to stay afloat.
“We have sought to balance strategic missional importance measured in terms of physical coverage (Anglicans are committed to the parish system whereby everybody and every square inch is in someone’s parish) with a realistic assessment of the cost of maintaining a local building and whether that building is able to be made fit for purpose for the whole of the 21st century,” said the Venerable Andrew Brown, Archdeacon of Man, in his foreward to the report.
Although new housing developments are springing up across the island, bringing with them new opportunities, the report says that “often the buildings we have are firmly planted in the wrong place”.
Last year, a “record number” of parishes were unable to pay their full contributions to the Shared Ministry Fund, which covers the cost of clergy and training new ministers.
Three quarters of the diocese’s income comes from parish giving, but the upkeep of buildings is eating into that, the report said.
“Our parishes have responded well to these demands but many are beginning to lose the struggle, and too many buildings is proving an unsustainable drain on resources,” it said.
The report goes on to suggest that parishioners are reluctant to give towards expensive buildings, particularly if they do not worship there.
“However, we believe that money follows vision, and that vision moves at the speed of trust,” the report says.
“So long as people think that their money is being wasted on white elephant buildings or vanity projects, or so long as they will only give to their own building, then we will continue to head towards a financial black hole.”
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the challenges for the diocese, pushing it to the “brink of financial ruin” and raising the possibility of selling off buildings to stay viable.
“Holding on to buildings regardless of all other considerations will be disastrous,” the report reads.
“The cost of maintaining them may in some cases draw funds away from where they are needed and will have a greater impact on our sustainable mission and ministry.
“The retention of some buildings of dubious value for mission and ministry but which may easily be saleable for serious money denies funds we will need to ensure the Church can continue to serve the Lord and the island for the century ahead.”