PARISH OF THE SACRED HEART – ANNUAL PARISH MEETING
MONDAY 9TH MAY 2016
The Annual Parish Meeting was held in the Parish Hall at North Walsham and was well attended by approximately 60 parishioners. A delicious 2 course meal was generously provided by parishioners from Sacred Heart, North Walsham and St. John of the Cross in Aylsham.
Fr. James began with Grace before the meal and then said that he was very pleased to be able to welcome Gervais Koulongou as our speaker this evening as he had known Gervais as a parishioner from his time at the Cathedral.
GERVAIS KOULOUNGOU – DEANERY REPRESENTATIVE FOR REFUGEES
Gervais first guided us through a group exercise, which helped us to clarify the difference between asylum seeker, immigrant, economic migrant and refugee. Gervais and his daughter had themselves had to flee the Democratic Republic of the Congo, their native country, with the tragic separation of his family due to the insurgency. He then read an account, written by his daughter, of their traumatic experiences. This was certainly most moving, and was appreciated by all who attended the meeting. He explained that the delay in welcoming any refugees to Norfolk was due to local government unwillingness to help and he would let John Bolger know who we could write to in order to express our concerns
ROBERT HARDIE – CHAIR OF PPC
We are most fortunate to have Gervais speak on the horrors of being driven to leave his own country; and we will all do whatever we can to help.
The European Refugee problem has now taken on global dimensions may well be THE most important humanitarian crisis of our age. It is in a way a bit like the Peasants’ Revolt in England at the turn of the Middle Ages in 1381. Now the whole of humanity rather that one country is rising up and saying that inequality is basically not on. We are poor and you are so rich, you throw away food, you destroy our planet.
Pope Francis has been calling on the international community for a year to not only welcome refugees but to provide development assistance to countries where migration originates to eliminate the reasons why people abandon their homes and homeland. As a humanitarian gesture, has given 12 Syrians a home with him! We have to follow his example. There was a slight mystery as to where the refugees that were to come to Norfolk and be cared for have gone, referring to Bishop Alan’s a letter last September urging us to be ready to resettle refugees, and the Cardinal’s letter doing the same, but now we have been put in the picture, and will contact those responsible for the local government hold up, once we are told who to write to. Cardinal Vincent Nichols at the annual Migrants’ Mass in Westminster Cathedral on 2 May said, “We hope that the way in which governments respond to the immense challenge which faces us will take more seriously the personal generosity of so many who are willing to welcome refugees and desperate migrants and yet are hindered from doing so by policies shaped more by caution and fear.” What a shame this is happening in Norfolk!
I won’t say much as you have been sitting for a long time and I am a man of few words anyway! Actually there isn’t too much to report on, as I’ve only been in the job since November.
My wife, the Hon Sec. tells me my job is to thank lots of people!
So, I’d better start by thanking her, the secretary!! And Terry for leaving me with this job! And more thanks will follow as I cover the more important events and goings on during the year.
The Tidal Wave of New Evangelisation has continued to sweep this way. At the end of October there was a meeting in Newmarket run by Fr. Sean and Rebecca Bretherton. I stood in for John Bolger. I came back desperately wanting us to play musical chairs in Aylsham. We were told that to be a “welcoming parish” we were not to occupy the same seats week after week. Newcomers can feel very awkward if they think they are occupying a “reserved seat”. Anyway, my efforts totally failed. I was told we were a welcoming parish anyway, and maybe I had a conflict of interest as we always end up in the front row, those seats being reserved very kindly for late comers, and maybe I had looked for an opportunity to move a little further back to the less obtrusive seats!
The Posada was great success except with our grandchildren who had far more important things to attend to! Anyway the idea of taking in the refugee Holy Family was very apt with the refugee crisis that we have heard about so fully.
The new organ was installed in the Sacred Heart Church in North Walsham at the end of September.
The RCIA course went very well and we welcomed David Pattrick into our community at the Easter Vigil. The whole course was tremendous fun and many thanks to Fr. James who ran it and kept us amused and informed.
We have now survived not just 2 but 3 arson attacks to St John’s Church in Aylsham! A huge amount of thanks to those who repeatedly appeared to clear things up under Peter Adamson’s organisation. It was so providential that the roof had been replaced with treated anti blaze timber otherwise we would have lost the whole church at the first attack if the burning roof had fallen in. We are very grateful too to those who popped the incendiary devices through first the letterbox and then the loo window that they didn’t make a better job of it. The second attempt however did cause a huge amount of black rubbery smoke and soot which took a long time to scrub off.
There are now improved Car parking facilities in North Walsham for the disabled, and also me and other late comers on the far bit of land that has been given a shingle base. A big thanks to Ian Roberts for sorting this.
The Alive in Faith Campaign despite a few dissidents has been very successful to the tune of £12,000 in excess of target (i.e. £132,000). Even the Aylsham dissidents were fairly happy after the evening of cathartic questions about the suitability of the fund raising process. Good or bad or both (like life) it was a very successful campaign, and Fr. James, Carol Shippey, Terry McIlwee and James Farrell worked very hard. So many thanks to them.
The SVP continues to be in Cromer with helpers from this parish attending. It is still acting as a sort of Deanery SVP. Many thanks to Adrian who does all the spade work for this parish, and also organises the food bank in North Walsham, which makes it is very easy to identity people in real need. We are always looking for more willing volunteers for SVP. Please speak to Adrian if you are able to help. Thanks to all for their support with food and money to pay the £15000 salary of Ella, the manager, who is invaluable.
The Parish Fete was a huge success despite the bad weather, and huge thanks to Teresa Butler.
For the first time ever we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday at The Sacred Heart and very many thanks to Agnieska and other Polish members of our community for the tea and cakes afterwards.
Many thanks also to Hilary and John Bolger for all they have done in making us increasingly aware of the dreadful plight of refugees and especially for inviting Gervais Kouloungou to speak to us this evening. There are bound to be others I haven’t thanked, so please accept my apologies and my thanks for whatever I have overlooked.
A very final word which continues the theme of the evening: we plan to present a series of Sunday late afternoon sessions on Laudato Sii in June and July here in the parish hall in North Walsham. It is an attempt to explain why on the basis of the Pope’s encyclical last year we should take our responsibilities as Christians in the world seriously and especially be willing to live more simply and share our resources. We have to have mercy like God’s Mercy and share what we have. So many of the world’s problems stem not only from a selfish disrespect of others but also a disregard to our environment, Sister Mother Earth. The talks supported by CAFOD will hopefully illustrate how Pope Francis links the two together.
NICK SUTHERLAND – CHAIRMAN OF THE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Financial Report to AGM 9 May 2016
Attached is the annual statement of account in the usual format. As you will see in those accounts expenditure exceeded income by £784.52.
A question was raised at the AGM as to why the figure for money paid out for second collections was more than the corresponding income. I have been asked this question at previous AGMs and the answer is the same. The financial statement sets out in simple terms money actually received and paid out between 1st January and 31st December. It concludes by showing how the parish’s account has altered as a result of those transactions and this year shows that as there was a deficit of £784.52 the amount in the account diminished by that sum. The apparent discrepancy in the second collection figures reflects the fact that some of the money paid out in 2015 was money received in 2014.
The major expenditure for the parish each year is the amount we have to spend in maintaining the buildings at the three communities. The figure in the financial statement only shows the current account. In addition we have capital reserves. As I have mentioned in previous years your finance committee have since I have been chairman built up a property reserve fund and from that account we paid £10,875 towards the cost of the new roof at St John’s with the community there contributing slightly more which it raised by its own fundraising activities.
In addition you will recall there are legacy funds but these can only be spent at North Walsham (although indirectly the whole parish benefits) The finance committee has a practice of only using the legacy monies for projects which have long term benefits. Last year a substantial contribution was made to the purchase of the new organ at Sacred Heart and for the improved disabled parking and also for LED lights in the hall which will make a long term saving in our electricity bills.
If we had not had these capital reserves the annual deficit would have been would have been almost £37,000.
From this it can be seen that the prudence of having the property reserve fund and the benefit of the legacy monies has enabled the finances of the parish to remain sound.
However, there was a concerning trend affecting the income of the parish which started during 2014 and continued through 2015 which I have been monitoring since 2014. This is the decline in the amount of the first collections. Although the decline began during the second half of 2014 it was offset for that year as a whole because the figures for the beginning of the year were higher than for the equivalent period in 2013.
Compared to 2013 and 2014 the reduction in 2015 was almost 5%. That rate of decline in such a relatively short period of time is rather concerning.
I do not think it is a question of parishioners being deliberately ungenerous in their giving, quite the contrary. I think it is a simple fact that sadly parishioners have died or moved away. Nonetheless we do need to address the problem and do what we can to resolve it.
We have some significant expenditure planned for the buildings in the parish including redecorating the inside of both Sacred Heart and St John’s. If all this kind of work was all done in the current financial year then according to my budget we would have a deficit of £27,000 or thereabouts which would more than exhaust the property reserve fund, which stood at 21,708.21 as at 31.12.16. Consequently you will see the importance of increasing the first collections figures and also it will probably mean we will have to stagger the work over at least two years.
There are a number of ways in which we can tackle the declining first collections and I ask the parish to consider all of them:
- To consider how long ago it was you settled on the amount you put in the collection each week. Can that figure be increased by 10%? For example if you put £1 in the collection make it £1.10. If it is £5 can you make it £5.50? And so on. I appreciate that for many people this will not be possible particularly after the Alive in Faith donations.
- If you are an income tax payer do you make your first collection payments by Gift Aid? If not, please sign up for Gift Aid. It adds a quarter to the money you give. Increasing the number of people giving via Gift Aid will not, on its own, resolve the reduction in the first collections.
- Can you make your payment by standing order? This is what I do and it has the benefit that if I am away from the parish (I am probably for at least a third of the Sundays of the year) the parish still gets my contribution.
- Probably each community will need to contribute towards projects at its locality by fundraising activities in the same way that St John’s did. The figure I have quoted for the planned expenditure on buildings assumes a 50% contribution from St John’s.
- Projects may have to be delayed.
Finally I would like as always to thank all my fellow members of the Finance Committee who work hard behind the scenes and would also like to welcome James Farrell to the committee as the parish Gift Aid administrator. If you wanted to make your first collection donations by Gift Aid then please contact James or if you are not familiar with him then please contact any member of the Finance Committee or the Parish Council who will then put you in touch.
FR. JAMES WALSH – PARISH PRIEST
Fr. James thanked all the parishioners for attending, he is always surprised by the good attendance at this gathering but put it down to the delicious food that had been provided. He thanked the members of the Parish Pastoral Council for their hard work and support throughout the year and said he felt that he had been given the best Parish in the Diocese of East Anglia. He thanked everyone for their support for ‘Alive in Faith and was very pleased that we had reached our target. He gave special thanks for the assistance of the helpers from the three different communities, Terry McIlwee, James Farrell and Carol & David Shippey. He concluded the evening with a prayer and blessing