As I write this letter, I am aware of my own anxieties about the cost-of-living crisis we are already in, and the truly frightening projections of heating bills we are facing. To ask you then to consider what you are giving to the church in the year ahead sounds “tin-eared”, but perhaps what I am asking in these tough times is to consider how we might give in a thoughtful way.
When we have more disposable income, we are able to be widely generous and spend without thinking. In tough economic times, we need to look at each pound twice before spending it. I would like to ask you to consider, for example, the charities you currently support – locally and internationally – and to consider what resources they have to survive this economic crisis; what kind of budgets they work with; and how it would affect your life and the lives of others, if your donation to them wasn’t made. Now please do the same exercise for St Mary’s Church.
As St Mary’s published accounts reveal, we essentially live a hand-to-mouth existence as a charity. We receive no money from the Government or the Church of England; we rely entirely on donations. Nonetheless, St Mary’s and its people are committed to doing what we can for the town of Ross-on-Wye in good times and bad. During the pandemic this meant our clergy carried on as front-line workers conducting funerals and keeping up connections with isolated people; it meant taking a lead in Ross’ Platinum Jubilee Celebrations and the town’s mourning for our late Queen; and in the winter ahead it means doing all we can to provide a warm place for cold people to gather and socialise. We exist to continue an 800-year long commitment to care for the people of Ross on Wye.
What would happen if St Mary’s just couldn’t afford to do this anymore? How would that affect the town, and you personally? What if St Mary’s was to become an ornate office suite? As each of us thinks twice about what we are spending our money on, please think of the value that your contribution could make to your own community, and particularly how it could make a difference in not just providing our town with its iconic skyline, but with ongoing compassion in good times and bad.
The Rev’d Sean Semple – Rector of St Mary’s