Over the past 18 months, the Diocese has journeyed together through challenging times, with parishes showing incredible generosity in honouring their Parish Support Fund (PSF) pledges so that mission and ministry can be resourced in every parish.

As Bishop Christopher said in the PSF materials sent out in July: “I am humbled by your generosity and steadfast determination to meet your pledges which fund ministry across the Diocese. You have held faith with the Parish Support Fund (PSF) and, like the church in Philippi, passed on your gifts in the midst of adversity to resource the mission of God’s Church.”

Now more than ever that generosity is vital as we seek to rebuild the PSF and reduce the deficit caused by the pandemic. As the deadline for submitting PSF pledges for 2022 approaches, we share testimony from two parishes about what the PSF means to them and how they have coped with the challenges of the past few years, followed by the Parish Support Fund prayer.

St Luke, Battersea

Churchwarden Antony Lewis-Crosby and Alison Roche, Parish Officer, write…

Towards the end of the lockdown periods, there was a real sense of a spring about to be released across our community. During lockdown, services moved on to Zoom and Facebook and we attracted excellent congregations throughout the last year. Zoom also enabled break-out chat rooms after services, bringing together members of the congregation who otherwise would not meet.

When it was possible, the services were led from church by clergy, organist, cantor, readers and intercessor, but in the early days of lockdown the services were led from homes and the church choir recorded hymns remotely and later filmed hymns and carols in church for use online. Using technology, and with support for those who struggled with it, we later restarted midweek Evening Prayer and ran a popular Lent course. Weekly newsletters went online or were delivered to those who needed hard copies to keep everyone informed of parish news.

The major change came as a result of Yunghee Koh’s arrival as Associate Priest in summer 2020. Yunghee immediately made a huge difference to the parish congregation supporting Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal, our Vicar, who had managed a very busy parish on his own for three years.

Community life

Although live activities stopped except for two concerts, online activities for all age groups proved successful, including weekly coffee mornings and our annual Christmas market. We were able to run a click-and-collect day for the market, all within the rules for social distancing. The parish also continued their support of the Glass Door Night shelter, Wandsworth Foodbank and the annual Christian Aid campaign with many volunteers coming forward.

During lockdown, we grew our network of those who were elderly and vulnerable and increased visits and pastoral calls to those who were alone, unwell or struggling in any way. We ran a bereavement course, in person and on Zoom, for 12 people, creating a safe place for discussion on issues of grief led by professional volunteers from within the congregation. A popular Lent course and ongoing Bible Study groups all took place online. Youth and Children’s ministry was also run online throughout lockdown to many families in the parish (more details can be found in the PSF materials).

Now the congregation are looking forward to taking communion in full, singing in church with a full choir, gathering over coffee and tea after services, being able to take the church’s mission more comfortably around the parish and restarting the high-quality concerts that fill the church on a monthly basis.

Support in adversity

Like all churches, St Luke’s has suffered a very big loss of income since March 2020. Income from the pews, particularly from the loss of our large Christmas and Easter congregations, virtually disappeared, along with church letting income from schools and our regular public concerts. Income from our busy church hall also was considerably reduced while expenditure projects already committed had to continue.

The generosity of our congregation and wider community through our online Christmas market, our special one-off Christmas appeal and our successful stewardship campaigns in 2020 and 2021 has been much appreciated and vital and has helped to reduce the expected deficit to a degree. We would be in a much worse position without that generosity. We have also benefited from the generosity of legacies which had not been spent in previous years. However, despite necessary budget cuts, we are showing a considerable budget shortfall in 2021.

Even so, St Luke’s will continue to be a major donor to the PSF even after necessary small reductions in our giving, because we value the role of the Diocese in supporting parishes which are considerably worse off than ourselves yet still playing a vital role in their own communities. We have featured a church in this position in our annual stewardship campaign for many years and found ways to link with that church during the campaign. Not only does this bring home to our congregation that we are in a stronger position than many other churches in the Diocese but we have good anecdotal evidence that the congregation is more generous because of the links we make.

St Paul, Thornton Heath

St Paul’s is supported by the PSF and had an extremely tough time during lockdown, losing income from hall hire. However, things turned around when they were asked to become a vaccination centre. Churchwarden Lesley Carr says that the vaccination centre has been an enormous blessing for the church and the wider community: “We’ve seen people coming to church that we’ve never seen before,” she says.

Watch a short interview with Lesley below.

Parish Support Fund prayer

Read more about the PSF at southwark.anglican.org/giving/parish-support-fund.