Church of England Diocese of Oxford Hurst

Appeal Letter - Finance info

St Nicholas church finances – a brief overview

There is a widespread perception that the Church of England is wealthy institution and that individual parish churches like St Nicholas are well provided for.  The reality is very different.

The church of England does own a huge estate of churches, churchyards and rectories, and does have a portfolio of financial investments.  However, it also has major commitments. It employs and houses the clergy who do its work, it pays the pensions of retired clergy, and the majority of its buildings are old, many are listed, and all have to be maintained. 

The fact is that the Church of England operates within tight resource constraints, and the day-to-day costs of its activities – mainly clergy salaries, pensions and housing, are actually funded by money levied from individual parishes, known as the Parish Share.  Large old rectories and surplus land have almost all been sold off long ago.  For example the smaller new vicarage in Hurst was sold several years ago, with all of the proceeds going back to the Oxford Diocese central fund, not to the parish.    

 The Parish Share levied from St Nicholas is now just under £30,000 per year. In addition, the church’s day-to-day running costs in an average year are around £20 - £25,000, including £5,000, for insurance and around £5,000 for other utilities.  In a normal year St Nicholas therefore has to find £50 - 55,000 just to stay open and meet its obligations to the Diocese.

So with an electoral roll of only c.65 people, how does St Nicholas church remain viable?

Every year the members of the church and other attendees at its services contribute over £20,000, including Gift Aid tax recovered.   Other activities, including special fund-raising events and the fees charged for weddings, baptisms and funerals raise between £5,000 and £10,000.  (The fees for weddings etc. are determined by the Diocese, which receives a set share of the charges.)   However, the total of this “self-funding” clearly accounts for only just over half of the total annual amount that St Nicholas has to find in an average year.  The rest of what is needed comes from three other sources.

The first of these is one-off gifts and legacies.  Many churches benefit from these, and St Nicholas has been fortunate in receiving several generous gifts and legacies over the past few years, contributing several thousand pounds to reserves.  By definition, however, one-off legacies and gifts are clearly not a source of funds on which the church can regularly rely.

The other two sources of funds are unique to St Nicholas and without them the church in Hurst would probably long ago have ceased to be viable. 

The first of these is the Church House Charity, or CHC.  This charity was established through a legacy many years ago, with the charter to “make grants towards works relating to religious and charitable activities in the ecclesiastical parish of Hurst, using income derived from property”.  CHC’s trustees are the incumbent vicar and the elected churchwardens, and the property in question is the building occupied by the Castle Inn opposite the church, from which CHC receives rental income. 

The church applies to CHC for grants to fund specific items of expenditure, mainly repairs and maintenance, but also other costs that could be eligible.  In a typical year these grants total around £10,000, although this can be significantly higher if there is a major repair or development project (for example the new lights).  The existence of CHC has ensured the survival of the church, but there are tight restrictions on what its grants can be awarded for, and in particular CHC’s charter does not allow it to contribute to the Parish Share.

The second source of funds unique to St Nicholas is the two cottages beside the church parish rooms, owned by the Diocese but held in trust for the Parish.  This means that the church receives the rental income, but it is also responsible for their upkeep.    

The cottages generate on average an annual net income of £15 - £20,000.  These are very old, listed buildings, however, and the extensive refurbishment three years ago of one of the cottages cost almost £100,000.  This depleted the cottage reserve fund and £45,000 had to be financed by a five-year loan on commercial terms from CHC, which is still being paid off.   The ability of the cottages to contribute to church funding is therefore currently restricted to rather less than £10,000 per annum.

The approximate current balance of income and expenditure therefore looks like this :





(All of these numbers are approximate and some can vary a lot year to year - the total can swing from small surplus to large deficit very quickly.)

Giving & Gift Aid



Parish Share

Church House Charity




Fund raising & fees




Cottages – net



Other running costs





Clearly St Nicholas has been very fortunate in that it has sources of funding that have ensured its financial survival so far.  But every year it is becoming harder to balance the books, as costs creep upwards and attendance and support declines.  The healthy reserves that many churches, including St Nicholas, enjoyed in the past are now just a fond memory.

And to just survive as a financial entity is not really enough.  In order to thrive, a church must be able to fulfil its wider role, to stand at the heart of its community, with its people and its buildings available to serve everyone within that community, whatever their beliefs or their relationship with God or the church.  A healthy, living church at the heart of our village community needs to be able to do more than just eke out its finances year by year. 

That is why we are asking for you to help.  Think about coming to church; we would love to see you among us.  But if that is a step too far for you, consider setting up a modest, regular standing order.  £10 is the cost of a cinema ticket.  £10 per month from 50 households in Hurst would cover a significant part of St Nicholas’s annual running costs.   So do think hard about your life in Hurst, and about what is really important to you, and to your family.   

If you want any further details about the church, its services, its activities or its finances, please do not hesitate to contact any of the church officers.    

David Boyd

([email protected])

Hon. Treasurer, Parish of St Nicholas Hurst