Strategy Reboot

"How is God calling us to be the Church to the people living in our diocese?"

The purpose of our strategy engagement is to engage parishes and communities in a conversation. The Bishop seeks to identify what we have learned from living through a global pandemic and to identify how effective the previous five-year diocesan strategy has been, where there has been any impact and what changes we need to make as we plan for the future.

Our primary question is, “What can the diocese central function do to help our parishes, benefices and deaneries to flourish?”

As part of the diocesan strategy refresh, Bishop Richard hosted a number of listening events across the diocese.  These began in November and ran to early December 2021.  

Where did the listening events take place?

Please see below the full list of locations where listening events took place during November and December 2021

Date Venue Time Booking
Monday 8 November Sutton Hill Church, Sutton Hill, Telford 2:30pm - 4:00pm FINISHED
Wednesday 10 November Escleyside Village Hall, Abbeydore Deanery 5:30pm - 7:00pm FINISHED
Tuesday 23 November St Peter's Church, Bromyard 2:00pm - 3:30pm FINISHED
Saturday 27 November St George's Church, Pontesbury 10:30pm - 12:00pm FINISHED
  All Saints, Little Stretton 2:00pm - 3:30pm FINISHED
  St John's Church, Ludlow 4:30pm - 6:00pm FINISHED
Monday 29 November Lady Hawkins Secondary School, Kington 4:00pm - 5:30pm FINISHED
  Leominster Priory, Leominster 6:30pm - 8:00pm FINISHED
Monday 6 December St Mary's Church, Ross-on-Wye 7:30pm - 9:00pm FINISHED
Wednesday 8 December Hereford, Great Hall, The Palace 6:30pm - 8:00pm FINISHED


If you have any questions about these events, please email our communications team

I did not attend one of the listening events - What can I do?

We are sorry you were unable to attend one of the dates.  If you would still like to take part in the strategy consultation, please follow the link at the bottom of this page to complete our survey questionnaire.  If you attended one of the events and would like to offer additional feedback on any of the questions, please use the survey link to submit your responses.

The following are some frequently asked questions about listening events and how the listening exercise will work in our diocese:

What is a listening event?

Bishop Richard hosted a total of 10 listening events at a number of venues across our diocese.  The Bishop visited as many locations as possible in-person before restrictions were put in place.  He sought to affirm the prayer life of our churches and to encourage the mission and ministry of the diocese as well as listen and learn first hand to the challenges and opportunities faced in our many parishes.  He asked a number of key questions at the event - details of this can be found in the survey at the bottom of this page.

Who came to the listening events?

We were delighted to see nearly 300 people from across our diocese at the 10 listening events which took place during November and December.  We know that many people were unable to attend due to a variety of reasons.  We are encouraging anyone who would like to offer feedback an opportunity to send their comments in, using our online form.  

How will all the feedback from the events and survey be used?

All the feedback we receive from the events and survey replies will be collated, reviewed and then presented to Bishop’s Staff meeting in early January 2022 and will then be used to formulate the final detailed strategy objectives and plans for the next diocesan five-year plan. The final strategy will be published on the website and across other channels including our weekly eNews.  We hope that each deanery chapter team will also use the strategy to link up local parish and deanery mission plans. 

The diocesan strategy was launched in 2015 following an extensive listening and engagement process. We adopted the strapline, "Proclaiming Christ, Growing Disciples" and identified three main strands for our focus:

  1. Church growth, numerical and spiritual - More people becoming Involved with the church, and those that are already involved becoming more deeply involved.
  2. Reimagining ministry - Finding new ways to minister to and look after our communities, where they live, work and play in today’s society – whilst also cherishing our existing loyal congregations.
  3. Contributing to the common good - Working for our communities to make a positive social difference.

As the first five years of the strategy draw to a close, we have started to review how effective the plan was, to look at ways in which we need to change and what we still need to do.   This review takes place against the background of covid which has had a huge impact on the life of our 400+ churches and the many communities we serve.

We know that many people have questions about the future and about how our diocese is funded.  There are many misconceptions about finance, structures and the purpose of the central diocesan structure and team.  The following frequently asked questions aims to answer some of the most common questions asked:

How is the Church of England funded?

Historically, clerics lived off the income from benefactors, private means or parish land, and the more well-off clerics paid a tenth of their income to the Pope and then, after the Reformation, to the Crown. The significant variation in the wealth and living standards of ‘livings’, and therefore of clerics, was seen as something of a national scandal, and the first step towards greater equity in clerical income was taken by an Act of Parliament in 1703. Known as the Queen Anne’s Bounty Act, it established an endowment which used the money collected by the Crown to augment the incomes of the poorest livings. In the 1830s, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners took over the historic land endowments of bishops and cathedrals to create a fund to pay for bishops and cathedrals and help towards greater equity. In 1948, the functions and assets of Queen Anne’s Bounty were merged with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to form the Church Commissioners. The investment from this endowment is now used to pay for all bishops and to contribute to other C of E costs, such as new ministry initiatives, all clergy pensions accrued before 1998, its 43 cathedrals, and national support structures (such as the Parish Buying and Parish Giving schemes). In 2020, the Church Commissioners spent nearly £100m supporting dioceses and their 13,000 parish churches, nearly £38m on episcopal ministry, and £20m on cathedrals. Diocesan common funds mostly emerged after World War II as the means for harmonising and paying stipends, although this process took until the 1970s. The Endowments and Glebe Measure of 1976 took all parish endowments into diocesan ownership across the Church of England, as a portfolio of restricted investment for dioceses to manage centrally as one portfolio to support stipendiary ministry. The Church of England receives no income from the government other than VAT relief on repairs to its 13,000 listed buildings. This grant scheme is worth up to £42m a year to listed places of worship. In 2020, , PCCs in the Diocese of Hereford contributed around £3.5 million through Parish Offers, while the cost of parish ministry and mission was £4.53 million. The shortfall of just over a million pounds had to be covered by other sources of diocesan income, and left the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance with an overall deficit of £0.41 million. A similar level of deficit is projected for 2021-2022. Such deficits are not sustainable in the long term, as once assets are sold, they no longer generate income to help cover the gap between Parish Offers and the costs of parish ministry. The Hereford DBF invests every pound of Parish Offer in parish ministry. In effect, those groups of parishes whose Offer does not cover the costs of ministry are subsidised by other PCCs which pay more than their own ministry costs, as well as by DBF income derived from investments or asset sales. This principle of sharing the resources which God has given us, and the ongoing costs associated with providing and supporting ministry, are also why it’s important for financial contributions from parishes to continue during a vacancy.

Is there a central policy to reduce the number of parishes?

No. Parish boundaries have sometimes changed over the years, and some parishes have been merged (such as Stoke Prior with Ford) or divided (such as Madeley, which is now three separate parishes) as populations rise and fall. Incidentally, the Diocese of Hereford has by far the fewest number of people per stipendiary minister ca. 5,000in the Church of England./p>

Is there a central policy to close churches?

No. There have been no examples in at least the last decade – and probably much longer - of churches in this diocese being closed for any reason other than at the request of the parish. There is no plan to change that approach. In fact, the boot is on the other foot: if parishes request us to start the closure process, we usually ask them to explore all other possible alternatives first. If, as a last resort, we do start the closure process, we do so slowly and carefully and consult all interested parties, including local clergy and PCCs. There is then another entire round of public debate after closure, when plans for re-use of the building are consulted upon. It is not easy to find a new use for a closed church, as they are nearly all highly listed and protected buildings. We have churches which have been closed for 15-20 years and have not yet found a sustainable future. Finally, one very practical reason not to close churches is that the cost of insuring and maintaining closed churches falls on the DBF, and that money is then not available for other things. There are many imaginative and successful examples in the diocese of encouraging new ways of using church buildings without closing them. Parishes and local clergy are at the heart of the mission involved in those projects and will remain so.

What happened to all the parish ‘glebe’ land?

The Endowments & Glebe Measure 1976 centralised parish assets so that they could be managed as a portfolio of income and investments in order to resource ministry across all parishes within each diocese.

Why does it cost so much to fund parish ministry?

In 2022, the total direct cost per stipendiary minister in the Diocese of Hereford is forecast to be just over £80,000, of which about a third is the stipend. The other elements are national insurance, pension contributions, housing costs, training (for incumbents and curates, readers and other church workers), and a share of direct local ministry support costs, such as safeguarding. The Hereford DBF then uses the rental income from surplus clergy housing and the parochial fee income (i.e. the share of the fee it receives from life events in a parish) and the savings made when there are vacancies to offset this figure, leaving a total net cost of £63,400 per stipendiary clergy post.

Why has the cost of providing a parish priest increased in recent years?

The Bishop of Hereford and senior team seek to deploy sufficient numbers of ordained clergy to meet the evolving pastoral and missional needs of the 360 parishes in the Diocese of Hereford, but need to balance this demand with the financial resources available. In additional to annual inflationary increases, each time the number of clergy in the diocese is reduced, the average cost of each stipendiary clergy post rises slightly, because the training and support costs are shared between fewer people.

What has the Diocesan Office done to reduce its costs?

The Diocese of Hereford already had the lowest operating costs of any diocese in the Church of England, yet between 2017 and 2020 it made further savings of £715,000. 40% of this related to a reduction in stipendiary clergy. The other 60% of this was a reduction in the central office team from 31.2 people (full-time equivalent) to 26.4 FTEs, excluding those positions which are externally funded. Only the direct local ministry support elements (such as the parts of the Parish Giving and church buildings teams that are not externally funded) are included in the ‘local ministry support’ element of the costings for a stipendiary minister.

Why are churches so expensive to run?

Church buildings are usually the oldest, most architecturally elaborate and most visited buildings in any community. Over time, the costs have escalated because of the age of the building, the lack of traditional craftsmen and materials, insurance, and changing expectations (e.g. of heating and lighting, which would at one time have been a luxury, as well as the provision of additional facilities). Even the much newer church buildings require significant levels of maintenance, and all buildings must be insured and are subject to the costs of a changing regulatory environment (e.g. health & safety and disability access).

Why should I give money to my local church?

The Bible tells us that all things come from God (1 Chronicles 29:14) and that we are stewards of these gifts (e.g. 1 Peter 4:10). Steward (both in English and Greek) means ‘housekeeper’; we are responsible for looking after resources – including the planet – for future generations, and Jesus reiterated the call to his disciples directly and in his parables both to use our resources wisely and not to build up treasure for ourselves on earth (e.g. Matthew 6:19). Giving is part of God’s grace and a response to our generous God, and we are called to give cheerfully and willingly, according to our means and even beyond our means, sharing what we have with others so that no-one has too much and no-one has too little (e.g. 2 Corinthians 8). We give to church because we believe in sharing our faith with others, in caring for people, and in gathering as local churches and part of a worldwide community of followers of Jesus – it is no accident that the Greek word for community and communion is the same. As Paul also writes in 2 Corinthians 8, giving is part of how we express not only our faith but also our love. Parochial Church Councils are charities, although most, as charities with an income of under £100,000, are ‘excepted’ under charity law. So is the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance and, like other charities, PCCs and the HDBF are funded through a mixture of private voluntary donations, legacies, grants and investments.