At our recent ‘On the Way’ meeting, I reported on the relative health of the finances of Warleggan was invited to report back on the ‘secrets of our success’.
My first response was one of embarrassment. Having read reports from other benefices and ‘clusters’ I cannot honestly say that we either work as hard as these parishes nor are we confronted with anything like the extent of their difficulties.
The principal gift of Warleggan church has been one of pure good fortune. We have a characterful church that attracts support from visitors and grant aiding bodies, we have a small but actively committed congregation and we have local skills on hand that have allowed us to successfully fundraise and to carry out works economically and to a good standard.
Warleggan Church is small, simple, costs little to run and has immense charm. It has a special atmosphere, the church walls are soaked in the prayers of the parish going back many centuries. The legend of the Reverend Densham is well known, Daphne Du Maurier and John Betjamen have both written about the church and the village has that infamous name ‘Warleggan’ made notorious by the Poldark books and series. Warleggan is old Cornwall and it doesn’t disappoint.
So through this good fortune, we get a steady trickle of visitors and a corresponding, if small, contribution to the collection box. But more importantly from the financial point of view, there are four households in the parish that are reliably faithful attenders and between them, by standing order, cover around 75% of the cost of the MMF.
These same households provide time and expertise and during the last 15 years have on two occasions raised six-figure sums to cover the cost of re-roofing the main body of the church and the tower, installing toilets and completely re-painting throughout. As a consequence, the church is mercifully free of any pressing maintenance issues.
And most recently two couples have moved into the parish and are now a regular part of our congregation and actively involved.
As a result of this core support we are able to put on musical and choral events, host talks and will shortly (now that we have toilets) be promoting the church as an ideal location for small weddings.
So, as I say, we have been immensely fortunate.
There is though another and even more significant ingredient to our ‘’success’’,
Warleggan and St.Neot parishes work very closely together, we have shared a priest for years and are very comfortable with each other. About 7 years ago when our very revered and loved priest, Andrew Balfour, retired we were told by the diocese that we must merge to be part of a cluster with three other parishes – and that the St.Neot rectory would be sold. We had nothing at all against the other three parishes but at the same time, we had little in common. We were paying our way and could see absolutely no justification for this merger and the obvious dilution of our new priest’s time and attention.
Suffice it to say after a considerable tussle we won the argument and this has been a key part of our ‘fruitful and sustainable’ parish life – aided of course by the presence of a worthy successor to Andrew Balfour and now by two excellent PTOs while we find ourselves in another interregnum.
So, the ‘secrets of our success?’ In summary, a lot of good luck, excellent priests, a close relationship with our neighbouring parish, a priest living in the centre of that parish and overall the sense that we remain in charge of our own destiny rather than being absorbed and diluted within a much larger benefice.
In common parlance, it’s a no brainer.
With best wishes,
Churchwarden, treasurer and secretary,
Nigel Chilcott · 3 February 2022 at 9:57 pm
As a born Cornishman, went to the old Cathedral sChool in Truro, I’m so pleased to read the story of the survival of Warleggan parish and the reasons for it – plain human endeavour and warm human neighbourly love. I hope the parishes of St Ladoca and St Probus (where I grew up) also can apply the lessons and luck that you had. May your parish survive another thousand years.