Campaign group Save the Parish (STP) last week (Thurs 7th July) held their summer conference in York, a day before the General Synod kicked off.
STP attracted over 100 attendees to their event at All Saints’ Pavement in the city centre,
which hosted the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell after a last minute change to the
The Rev’d Canon Giles Fraser grilled the Archbishop for almost an hour, taking questions
from the audience in a packed church.
Archbishop Cottrell joined the conference for lunch, then was taken to task about “cuts to stipendiary posts, the distribution of the Church Commissioners’ millions, and deep distrust between the Church’s centre and the parishes,” as Madeleine Davies wrote in a recent Church Times article about the conference.
But that wasn’t all that STP had to offer. A presentation by their ‘Financial Scrutiny Group’ – set up to take a deep dive into diocesan and national CofE accounts- gave an in-depth and revealing presentation on how money flows around the Church system.
Next up was Rachel Morley- Director of the Friends of Friendless Churches- her talk focussed on her work taking dilapidated, abandoned church buildings bringing them back to life. She spoke passionately about the incalculable value of church buildings by their own merit, and their benefit to the local community.
Prof. Nicholas Orme, writer of ‘Going to Church in Medieval England’ gave an insightful history of the development of the Church of England and the Parish system, moving from wary history right the way through the 20th century. He highlighted: “that Parish churches are one of the most precious resources we possess.
“They are centres of the community…an irreplaceable centre of history and art.”
The day ended with a choral evensong bespoke to the evening, with music from singers from
Speaking about the event, STP Chairman Marcus Walker said: “I think the conference was a great success, and has really worked to put Save the Parish on the map.
“We were very glad to extend an invitation to the Archbishop of York and excited that he
should accept. The hierarchy is clearly now paying serious attention to our campaign.
“We gave him a proper grilling, and levelled some very challenging questions at him. Now, it’s up to those in power in the CofE and it’s dioceses to actually listen- give parishes more of their own money back, invest in more stipendiary clergy and keep parishes open for the communities they serve.”
Event organiser Jacob Groet said: “STP is less than a year old, and in that time we’ve been able to host two events at opposite ends of the country that have attracted large groups of attendees. That’s not because we have any special ability as event organisers, but because of the immense love people feel toward their parishes.
“We hate seeing our parishes struggling, seeing them close and be merged into oblivion. The reason events like these are so successful is because they talk about what the Archbishops
and the dioceses don’t. If they continue to ignore these issues, I think we will need to find a