Islands’ Chaplain Confident Of Local Support After Diocese Announces Financial Difficulty

St Mary's Parish Church

St Mary’s Parish Church

The islands’ Chaplain, Canon Paul Miller, says he’s confident the community will rally round to support Scilly’s churches.

This follows national press reports on Sunday that the Diocese of Truro could run out of money within two years unless local parishe

s can find ways to boost their income.

Canon Miller says the Diocese is facing some financial difficulties. Average wages in the county are amongst the lowest in the UK and it’s inevitable that this will affect donations, he says.

Each parish is set a target to contribute to a central Common Fund and it’s likely that several will fail to meet that this year.

That money helps pay for training, and educational expenses, such as the two foundation governors provided for the Five Islands School.

But Paul stressed that Scilly has always paid its contribution in full, even though it runs a deficit due to the upkeep of its property.

He says there aren’t many parishes on the mainland with only 2,000 residents, but with six churches, two parsonages and a chaplaincy to maintain. A consultant will be visiting Scilly in September to help find new ways to manage funds.

Paul says Scilly is lucky because our large numbers of summer visitors, many of whom come to church, are very generous. That’s one of the reasons he’s been keen to work with tourism bodies like the Islands’ Partnership.

And he says the community has always been very supportive, including local businesses who often donate raffle and auction items for events.

The parish also has creative ways to maintain its income, such as charging visiting summer locums rent to stay at the off-island parsonages. Paul says they’re happy to do that because they get a nice holiday out of the arrangement.

But there are some big expenses coming up for the local church. St Nicholas on Tresco is about to undergo some major renovations costing around quarter of a million pounds. They’ve also installed a new heating system in St Martin’s and new windows in St Agnes.

And Paul says St Mary’s is likely to need a new roof and boiler soon. But he says there are no plans to sell off any major assets, like the parsonages.

Canon Miller remains positive about the situation. He says some people will be surprised to hear that church attendance is actually going up across the islands. And he says he enjoys the challenge of finding new ways to raise funds.

Paul believes that richer Diocese should also put their hands in their pockets to help out the poorer ones. He says that would be “the good, Christian thing to do.”

Church of England parishes raised a record £929 million in 2012.