18th September 2023

“This ancient church befriend”: Giving Campaign 2023

“This ancient church befriend”: Giving Campaign 2023, 17 September 2023

A sermon preached by Kenneth Padley, Canon Treasurer


Nestled in a small farmyard just off the A378 in Somerset is a tiny hamlet called Swell. Inside the simple rustic church, dedicated to St Catherine, an anonymous poem by the donations box appeals for generosity:


If aught thou hast to give or lend,

This ancient parish church befriend.

If poor but still in spirit willing

Out with thy purse and give a shilling.

But if its depths should be profound

Think of God and give a pound.


Passing over questions of literary merit, there are two things about this poem which I really like – and two which are now rather dated.


Let’s start with a positive. One of the things I like about the poem is its honest admission that Christians should talk about money:


If aught thou hast to give or lend,

This ancient parish church befriend.


Some argue that the Church should focus on sacred stuff and not get tangled in the weeds of worldly lucre. Jesus disagreed. Jesus spent a lot of time talking about money. He used money as a metaphor, as in today’s gospel to illustrate the profundity of God’s forgiveness. And he spoke about money in concrete terms, urging his followers to make holy use of their God-given resources.


All churches need to talk about money, because all churches need to resource their mission and ministry. If you already support the Cathedral through planned giving – regular faithful donation from your bank, thank you so much from me on behalf of the whole team here. If regular faithful giving is new to you, please listen on about how you too can get involved in this important aspect of our life together. And if today you are a visitor, please don’t switch off, but perhaps think about how the information I am about to share might be relevant in the context of your local church.


Most churches find it useful to hold an annual giving campaign. Salisbury Cathedral has not run one since 2017 so we are due a refresh. Indeed, the poem from St Catherine’s Swell inadvertently illustrates this need for regular financial updates:


If poor but still in spirit willing

Out with thy purse and give a shilling (?!)


Sadly, inflation has eroded the value of money, considerably in the case of this poem which was written before decimalisation in 1971. We need regular reminders about funding the local church, otherwise changes in prices will reduce the real-terms value of our giving.


So what are the costs of running Salisbury Cathedral? A comprehensive overview of past finances may be found on our website. Within the current financial year, we are budgeting for income of £4.7 million. The largest contributions to this come from visitor admissions plus spending in the shop and refectory. Fundraising and investments are also significant slices of the income pie chart. Against this income of £4.7 million, the Cathedral has budgeted expenditure of £6.3 million. The largest slice of this pays for the salaries of our hard-working staff team. Repairs and maintenance, liturgy, and utilities are also substantial slices of the expenditure pie.


Now before you turn pale at the prospect of a £1.6 million deficit, I would offer reassurance that these are conservative figures. They do not account for unpredictable income such as grants and legacies, nor a continued increase in visitor numbers after coronavirus, nor spending down on restricted funds. The latest management accounts from our Chief Financial Officer indicate that we are now on track to break even on unrestricted funds in the current financial year. However, restricted funds will not last forever, so Chapter is naturally working to diversify unrestricted income.


Among the streams of unrestricted income is regular faithful giving from our congregations. Last year this strand contributed £158K. What might the Cathedral buy with this money? Well, to give a rough indication, £158K would buy either:

  1. about half of our gas and electricity, or,
  2. just under a quarter of our amazing choir and music team, or,
  • two of the six clergy once pensions, taxes, housing and on-costs are added to canons’ stipends.[1]


£158K would buy you one of these options, but not all three. And that wouldn’t include the building around us – nor any online provision.


Friends, the honest truth is that English cathedral worship is among the most heavily subsidised in the world. Not today do I say this to crave your forbearance when tempted to share constructive feedback! Today I say it to encourage new and ongoing generous support.


How much should we give? In asking this question, I arrive at the second thing which I like about the poem from St Catherine’s church in Swell, because the poem invites us to give support in proportion to our means. Individuals’ resources have always varied. As the poem says, back in the day when the poor who were willing gave a shilling, those with pockets profound gave a pound.


There is no easy formula to recommend how much we should give. Each must determine what is right for their circumstances and involvement. I am mindful, for example, that some have split commitments, worshipping at the Cathedral some Sundays and in their villages on other occasions. With these caveats, I share two figures that I find helpful.

  • Firstly, the Church of England has long encouraged its members to give 5% of their disposable income to church causes, and 5% to other charities.
  • Secondly, adults in Church of England parishes which break even will be giving on average – average I emphasise – £15 plus per adult for every Sunday they attend.


Thinking about every Sunday on which we attend brings us neatly to the second anachronism of the Somerset poem. Congregation members once supported their local church through weekly cash donations. I guess some of you will remember those blocks of envelopes we used to get, with a motivational verse from 2 Corinthians on the front?! But most people now rarely carry cash. Payments are made electronically. Therefore, the most reliable and efficient means of regular faithful giving to Church is now through what is called the Parish Giving Scheme.


The Parish Giving Scheme, PGS, has operated across the Church of England for fifteen years, although Salisbury Cathedral has only recently become a member. PGS is a national Direct Debit platform that channels every penny given to the donor’s designated church but it has the added benefits of (i) paying Gift Aid monthly – helping to smooth cashflow at the recipient church, and (ii) including an annual invitation – invitation – to increase giving by inflation, thus removing the problem of the diminishing value of sterling. For these reasons, PGS is the giving method which the Cathedral is promoting to all new congregational supporters. Those who use the older Standing Order scheme are able to continue, but I encourage you to join me in coming over to PGS because it is the easiest and most efficient way of making regular faithful inflation-proofed donations to the Cathedral.


Full information about PGS is on a letter from the Dean which the stewards will give to every adult as you leave. This letter will also be circulated electronically in the days ahead to those on our mailing lists. For those watching online, details about financial support for the Cathedral can be found under the ‘More’ tab of our website.


Additional information about giving is also available in our Planned Giving leaflet, and along with my colleagues, including Jilly Wright, our Development Manager, I would welcome questions in person or by email.


Like Jesus and the anachronistic but honest poem in St Catherine’s Swell, I commend these issues to your reflection and action. Thank you so much for contributing to the confident future mission and ministry of this holy place.



[1] The ‘Full Ministry Costs’ of a Vicar are now c.£75K.