Normally April is the month vicars talk about Easter, but it’s also the month which marks the beginning of the tax year, and I want to talk about that instead. Lest you think it inappropriate, a reminder that the disciple Matthew, in whose Gospel we read of the appearance of an angel at Jesus’ empty tomb on Easter Day, was a tax collector, and Jesus himself, who often preached about money, advised us to render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar’s.
Tax. No one likes paying it, but everyone likes what it pays for. The things we value and consider important cost money, like anything else, and so the Chancellor decides how much tax is needed to cover the expenses the government of the day wishes to incur. If we don’t like the specifics, then we can vote them out and vote in an alternative; but the principle remains. We all contribute to the common purse and all share in the benefits it pays for.
So with the church. I have bored you often enough, I know, with appeals for what you can afford from your hard-earned resources so we can cover our basic costs – the gas bill, upkeep, insurance, photocopying, and, most significant of all, the parish share, which goes from Finedon and all the other parishes of the diocese to Peterborough and then back out to those parishes to pay for stipends and pensions. Costs rise faster than we can comfortably keep up with and we face this year the prospect of being unable to meet all those demands. So we need a plan. Winning the Lottery would solve many of our material problems, but the chances of doing so are slim. The magic money tree we hear so much about is not likely to drop its fruits into our basket either; but there are two simple things we CAN do. First, review how much we give. It is easy to forget how quickly the years go by. I checked my own Standing Order to church last year and discovered, to my surprise and discomfort, that I had not increased it since I arrived nine years ago. Inflation has not stood still, but my giving had. So I adjusted it upwards. If we all did this every year, and, where able, adjusted accordingly, we would be in much better position.
But the REALLY IMPORTANT thing we can do is much simpler and if you are unable to increase your donation, need not cost more. It is to move to planned giving. At the moment we mostly give cash, or through an envelope scheme, or in a Gift Aid envelope, all of which are most gratefully received. But they are inefficient and outdated and expensive ways of giving. So we need to phase them out and move people, where possible, onto Standing Orders. This simply means instructing your bank to transfer to us on a monthly basis the money you would otherwise donate in the plate. It is a single form, that is easy to fill in, and we can help you with it, if you would like some help. It means no extra cost to you, but a saving to us (did you know the bank charges us 60p for every cheque we present?). You can still Gift Aid your donation. And you can just as easily adjust it if your circumstances change (or if you actually do win the Lottery). The good news is that if everyone moved onto Standing Orders it would have a very significant and positive effect on our finances, and this enable us to focus more on what we’re called to be and do.
We are Easter People. We live in the light of that bright day, and we proclaim in word and action – and giving – that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Everything we do must serve that mission, whether it is keeping the choir cassocks in good condition, mowing the churchyard, firing the boiler, or just keeping going, not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all our neighbours too, and for future generations, who may look up on a cold dark night and see the spire lit up and hear the bells ring out and know that in the offer of light and peace and love endures. What’s that worth?
A very happy Easter to all.
Yours in Christ,