The Parochial Church Council of
Saint John the Evangelist, East Dulwich
MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE PAROCHIAL CHURCH COUNCIL
Held on Tuesday 8 December 2015 at 8.05 p.m.
Present:Fr. Bill Jacob (Chair), Sarah Alexander (for Item 3 only); Revd. Anne Clarke, Anne Coates, Libby Coates, Sian Conlon, Charles Corbin, Sarah Goudge, Sally Gross, Ben Hunt, Malcolm King, Jayne Mallett, Alistair McCulloch, Rachel Mills, Maxine Plunkett, Alistair Read, Michael Robinson, Eurica Shaw, Elizabeth Stanton, Joy Taylor and Julie Whitney
In attendance: Dorothy Oxley (Minutes)
- Apologies for absence
Apologies had been received from Tina Hampson, Tayo Olatunde, Ola Jibona, Stephen Phillips, Elisabeth Stevenson, Robert Turner, Vince Turner and Deepthi Wickremasinghe.
- Welcome and opening prayer
Bill welcomed everyone to the meeting, especially Sarah, the Head Teacher of St John’s & St Clement’s School. He explained that one of the church’s ambitions was to build really good relationships with the school, which would help parents (and children) feel comfortable about becoming part of St John’s. He then opened the meeting with prayer.
- Head Teacher’s Report
3.1 Sarah outlined some key facts about the school, which currently had:
- 429 children on the roll
- 66 staff
- 8 hearing impaired children (the school was recognised as a hearing impaired resource school, and takes up to 10 children from other boroughs as well as Southwark). They have a part time teacher of the deaf, an FM system, and acoustic boards in classrooms.
- 7 ‘looked after’ children – the number can be fluid, as they are often moved around foster placements, but the current group are quite stable. These children usually have additional needs.
- Last year 9 children child protection referrals, 2 on the child protection register, and 1 ‘child in need’. There are some quite vulnerable families in the area.
- 34 after school clubs, 14 of which are sports-related
- 70 places for children at the school Breakfast Club
- 109 children learning to play a musical instrument (brass, flute, piano or violin), with teachers coming in.
- 90% of school lunches are now made from fresh ingredients (the school now has a new catering provider – Harrisons)
- 125 children have medical conditions some of which are minor such as eczema, some are major such as sickle cell
3.2 She explained that the morning collective worship at the school always had a biblical focus, followed by ‘what does this mean to us in the real world?’. Last year each week had been an A – Z of Bible characters; this term they had also looked at Jesus’s qualities and stories linked to these, and next term would be looking at ‘Secret heroes and heroines in the Bible’.
3.3 As a Church school, St John’s & St Clement’s was inspected not only by the national schools’ inspection body, Ofsted, but also had SIAMs inspections, which looked at religious education, collective worship and the Christian distinctiveness of the school. Sarah passed round samples of class RE folders, explaining that they had wanted to do more than just have children write down things in their RE books, and the class portfolios allowed them to be as creative as they liked and use artwork and photographs as well as words, which they enjoyed. Quite a number of other schools had taken a look at these folders and adopted the idea themselves. The school had now also introduced RE Assessment Books, in which children completed one task each term.
3.4 Sarah assured PCC members that they would be most welcome to visit the school and be shown round, or to join the collective worship held at 9 a.m. every day, or one of the many Christmas activities coming up. They were just asked to email her to make arrangements. Bill encouraged anyone who will be free to come to the schools’ services at St John’s, which will be on Tuesday, 15 December (7pm) Wednesday, 16 December (7pm) or 9.15 a.m. on Friday, 18 December.
3.5 Anne Coates asked what the overall strategy of the governing body was, and Sarah explained that while they were moving towards an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted report, they were very aware that the school catered for a broad range of children, some with particular needs, and it was very important not to turn them away. They wanted to push academic excellence plus the holistic nature of the school. She added that there were lots of incorrect perceptions amongst local parents about who could attend the school – in fact only around 40% of the parents are regular churchgoers, and children from other religions (Muslims, Sikhs etc.) also attend, which is excellent; also others have parents who buy into the Christian ethos but are not churchgoing. The school is proud of its achievements in sports, arts and music (even though these don’t tend to show on league tables). Governors and Committees focus on different parts of the school’s curriculum and activities. It was noted that Ben Hunt, Joy Taylor and Libby Coates are Foundation Governors.
3.6 On behalf of the PCC, Bill thanked Sarah for her report, and she left the meeting.
- Minutes of the PCC meeting held on 17 November 2015
The Minutes had been circulated and were approved as a true record following the correction of two typographical errors.
- Matters Arising from the Minutes (not listed as separate agenda items)
5.1 Presentation to Christine Abbott: Mike suggested that he and Rachel should make the presentation to Christine the following Sunday. Although Maureen Abbott had also retired as Archivist, this had been a voluntary role and so would not be recognised in the same way as that of a retiring member of staff. Mike and Rachel would however thank her when making the presentation to Christine.
Action: Mike Robinson, Rachel Mills
5.2 Update on interim arrangement to cover workload of Parish Administrator: Gareth Mills was now covering this, and he and Bill would be meeting the following day. Bill and Anne reported that things seemed to be going well and Gareth had been in touch regularly with both of them.
5.3 Election of Parish Representatives to participate in recruitment process for a new Vicar:
- a) Anne Coates suggested that as Lay Chair of the Deanery, and having no intention to stand as a representative herself, she should chair the section of the January PCC meeting dealing with the Election (though Rachel, as Lay Chair of the PCC, would chair the meeting as a whole). Anne suggested she should count the voting papers and Ben Hunt offered to assist. This process was agreed.
Action: Anne Coates and Ben Hunt
- b) Anne also suggested that the PCC should agree a date by which anyone interested in standing as a representative should let her know of this, in order for voting papers, etc. to be prepared. It was agreed that the deadline should be the Friday before the PCC meeting (15 January 2016).
Action: Any interested PCC members
- c) Sally expressed concern about voting for Parish Representatives, as it had always been the Church’s practice to appoint the two Churchwardens, and she felt strongly that this should still be the case, and Eurica agreed. Others also agreed that the Churchwardens were prime candidates for the role, but if this went to a vote, that would be confirmed. Bill explained that in his experience a vote was normally taken, as Parishes could not necessarily expect that the Churchwardens had the relevant experience of interviewing and appointing people (though in this case, they did). Sian made the point that everyone who wished to be considered as a Parish Representative would have to put the case for their suitability for the post (this would not need to be done in writing beforehand, but each candidate would have the opportunity to speak briefly at the January PCC meeting). Bill also considered it important to broaden out the process and have a vote, as the appointment of a new vicar was likely to be the most significant decision the PCC would need to make for a long period. There would of course not need to be a vote if only two people stood. It was agreed therefore to remain with the previous decision that a voting process would apply. (The actual wording of the relevant paragraph of Appendix B to Form 30, Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986 – Filling of Vacant Beneficies, is given in Appendix A to this paper. The full background information on what must take place at the January PCC meeting is circulated with these Minutes)
- Minutes of the Staff and Standing Committee meeting held on 24 November 2015
6.1 The Minutes of the meeting had been circulated, and Elizabeth Stanton expressed concerns that they sounded almost like the minutes of the PCC, and she hoped that a lot of the things discussed there would come to the PCC for decision. She was particularly disconcerted by the suggestions concerning identification of the reasons behind the shortfall in giving, and stressed the need to maintain complete confidentiality of the names and contributions made by parishioners. Others strongly agreed, and Sarah Goudge gave assurances that this would continue to be the case, and that any information provided to Bill would be very general, identifying trends not individuals.
6.2 Bill explained that there was statistical information indicating that there had been a sharp drop in giving, and he was trying to get a sense of what lay behind this. He was happy to speak to anyone who was dissatisfied with the way things had gone. Charles suggested it would be helpful to have some summary statistics of attendance and corresponding giving over the past year. Bill explained that Christine had done a review of the numbers of communicants, and Rachel added that there were footfall statistics for October, and also for Christmas and Easter, as these had to be counted for the diocese. Ben suggested that maintaining a spreadsheet of such data should be part of the job description for the new Administrator.
6.3 Elizabeth said that, hopefully, church numbers would begin to increase again, and once this happened, giving would start to increase naturally; but any attempt to persuade the congregation at the moment might run the risk of alienating people.
6.4 Returning to the broader issue of the remit of the Standing Committee/Staff Team, Bill gave assurances that its role was to review issues which would then be brought to the PCC.
- Terms of Reference of the Standing Committee/Staff Team
7.1 Bill had circulated a revised version of the Terms of Reference, and in response to a question from Anne Clarke, he explained that the only changes were to use words such as ‘considered’ and ‘recommended’ to make it clear that the Committee was not making decisions for the PCC but reviewing things before they came to the PCC in order that the PCC meetings should not be too long.
7.2 Ben asked about the position of the Parish Administrator on the Committee, especially when it came to discussions over such things as salaries for lay staff, or confidential matters concerning members of the congregation, for which she would presumably be asked to withdraw. Bill confirmed this would be the case; he thought the Administrator’s presence would be useful for note-taking and also as he/she would probably undertake many of the actions. The Administrator would be ‘in attendance’ and he would amend the Terms of Reference to make this clear.
- Appointment of a new Treasurer
Bill explained that Robert Turner had indicated that he would like to stand down because of the pressure of his work, which was very understandable. Sarah Goudge had very generously said that she would be willing to take on the role of Treasurer, and she was extremely well qualified to do so because, having served as Parish Clerk for almost 15 years, she has a greater grip on the finances than anyone else. Bill Jacob proposed, and Elizabeth Stanton seconded, the appointment of Sarah Goudge as Treasurer, which was agreed by acclaim.
- Proposed Budget for 2016
9.1 The proposed budget for the forthcoming year had been circulated. Sarah explained that the Finance Committee had met three times to discuss this, and it had become apparent that there was likely to be a shortfallin the region of £16,000 by the end of 2016. There were two main reasons for this:
- The drop in income from giving and Gift Aid
- The already promised payment of £95,000 to the Diocese. This decision had been made in the summer when the financial position had looked a bit better and there had perhaps not been a very careful scrutiny of the figures. She did not think the Parish could now say ‘We can’t pay that after all” because many things depend on it, but the commitment had only been made for one year and therefore the Church could offer to pay less in 2017.
9.2 In drawing up the budget, the Finance Committee had tried to confine expenditure to what was essential – for example, the budget did not include the planting of new trees, or any major new church furniture and equipment. The budget for the Church’s charitable donations had been reduced to £1,500 (from £2,000 in the current year) though the congregation could raise funds to pass on to good causes which they wished to support. The budget was a cautious one, based on a ‘worst case’ scenario, and it might be that less needed to be spent, for example, on church maintenance. It was however necessary to recognise that St John’s was an old building.
9.3 Sarah explained that when she had first become Parish Clerk, the PCC had been in a far worse position, being overdrawn on a regular basis. Currently the current accounts held in the region of £20,000 and there were adequate reserves in the deposit accounts, on which the PCC could draw. Nonetheless, there had to be some austerity, and she thought that this was the best possible budget.
9.4 The following questions and comments were raised:
Q: (Anne Coates): If Gift Aid has not been claimed in 2015 (and perhaps some for 2014), should this also be included in the budgeted income for 2016?
A: Gift Aid claimed for 2015 would need to be shown in that year’s accounts. Some provision has however been made for back-claimed Gift Aid in the budget.
Q: (Anne Coates): Also, looking at the budget for printing, postage, stationery etc., it would be best to check what is already in stock before buying anything new. Also, email is being used more than printed material now, so this could lead to a reduction. It might also be possible to reduce the cost of the telephone (by having a party line instead of two separate lines) and the internet – is this now with just one provider?
Q: (Anne Coates): Why is there £600 for refreshments?
A: This covers things like the PCC’s contribution to bring and share lunches, and wine for special occasions – there will have to be some kind of welcome event when the new incumbent starts. The amount is slightly less than for the current year.
Q: (Bill Jacob): The expenditure for organ and piano maintenance seems high.
A: Unfortunately the organ is somewhat temperamental, and is also not in the best position (there’s a risk of damp affecting it); it has to be maintained and this specialist maintenance is expensive.
Q: (Charles Corbin): Why are wedding receipts shown as only 1/3rd of the previous figure?
A: Wedding income is very unpredictable. It was high in 2014, lower in 2015. Anne and Bill both thought the figure was about right, and it was wiser to be conservative.
Q: (Julie Whitney): There is only £600 for children and young people’s work, which does not reflect the importance of this work in the Mission Action Plan.
A: This is actually a lot more than was included in the current year’s budget. (Julie asked for it to be given further thought, nonetheless).
9.5 Following this discussion, Alistair Read proposed and Michael Robinson seconded, acceptance of the proposed budget. This was agreed unanimously.
9.6 Short, confidential discussions regarding the organist’s fees are reported separately under Appendix B, for PCC members only.
- Recruitment of new Incumbent
10.1 Discussions concerning the appointment of Parish Representatives have been recorded under Item 5.3 above.
10.2 Parish Profile, Statement of Need, Person Specification and Mission Action Plan: Rachel had updated and circulated all the above documents. She explained that although further comments would be welcome, it was important to finalise these so that they might be sent to the Patron and the Archdeacon for information prior to the PCC meeting on 11 January. Both had seen earlier drafts and their comments had been taken into account in the current versions. Anne Coates congratulated Rachel on her work.
10.3 Parish Profile:
- a) Rachel explained that the Archdeacon had thought the quotes from past vicars were inappropriate and Julie said that while she liked the content of the quotes, much of which were still relevant today, the fact that they were accredited to clergymen, some of whom had served in St John’s many years before, made them look ‘old’, while the rest of the document was very much looking to the future. She suggested using some contemporary comments from the congregation, perhaps from those collected when the congregation was originally looking at the Action Plan, which Elisabeth Stevenson might still have. However Rachel pointed out that this would mean further delay and bring in the problem of which to choose. Sarah Goudge suggested that the existing quotes should be used, but without attributing them to named speakers or giving any dates, and this was agreed.
Action: Rachel Mills
- b) The Archdeacon had also suggested using more photographs; those currently included had been taken from the website. Charles Corbin offered to find more pictures and send these to Rachel, and Ben Hunt would send some Sunday School pictures (all parents had given signed permission for photographs to be used)
Action: Charles Corbin, Ben Hunt, Rachel Mills
- c) While recognising that the Archdeacon had suggested there was a need to be honest about what had happened in respect of Fr Charles, Sally was concerned about the wording in the second paragraph (commencing with ‘If we are honest ….’ and ending ‘… a growing inability to commit to a proper scheme of outreach’) which was a personal criticism of Fr Charles. She felt, and others agreed, that this document was not the place to make such points, and that the exact nature of the crime did not need to be stated. It was suggested that most of this should be cut and the remainder of the paragraph slightly reworded, so the second paragraph would begin with ‘Following the arrest and subsequent suicide of the previous incumbent, the last 18 months have been very difficult …’ This would meet the Archdeacon’s requirements for honesty about the situation. Sally offered to send her written suggestions to Rachel for her consideration.
Action: Sally Gross
10.4 No comments were made on the Person Specification, Statement of Need or Mission Action Plan.
10.5 The PCC formally agreed to adopt all four papers (subject to the amendments to the Parish Profile outlined above) and authorised Rachel and Mike, as Churchwardens, to write to the Bishop so that the Diocese could start the formal process.
10.6 Anne Clarke suggested that the congregation should be kept informed of the process, and Rachel confirmed that she would be putting the timetable up at the back of the church, and putting key dates in the pew sheet; Bill suggested a simple statement like ‘All being well, the vacancy will be advertised in early February with interviews taking place in March, before Easter’. While the Mission Action Plan could be placed on the website now, he suggested that the other items which would be made available to candidates should not go up on the website until after the January PCC.
Action: Rachel Mills, Charles Corbin (for website)
11.1 Finance Report: Covered by Budget
11.2 Finance Committee: Covered by Budget
11.3 Goose Green Centre Committee: No report as the Committee had not met.
11.4 Premises: No report
11.5 Deanery Synod: Anne Coates reported that the Synod had met on 2 December, when they had said goodbye to Alistair Read as Secretary and had appointed David Beamish from St Barnabas. Ruth Martin had given a talk about her role in the Diocese, which related to ministry and training. Paul Collier had accessed a website for volunteers from which he had been able to recruit volunteers to offer 18 hours administrative support a week; though this would not cover the work of a Parish Administrator, Anne suggested St John’s might also like to look into such websites. The Synod had held a bring and share supper, and had been joined by Bishop Michael. Their next meeting would be in March, and when Stephen Phillips gives in his notice, another Deanery Synod representative will be needed.
11.6 Safeguarding: There will be some training coming up in January for the volunteer Safeguarding Officers.
11.7 Electoral Roll: There was nothing to report.
11.8 Website: Charles Corbin reported that the work had been mainly routine updating and administration, with some information from John Webber on music going up; John had also now received permission from all the parents of members of the junior choir that their photographs could be used, and would send these to Charles. Charles was also working on photographs for the banner.
- Parish Dates and Meeting Dates
Both the above had been circulated for information, the Meeting Dates having been approved by the Committees concerned though some might be subject to change.
- Any Other Business
13.1 Pecan food bank: Michael reported that he had heard back from the Pecan Food Bank. There was a general food bank for non-perishable items, which would be put into a container at the back of the church and collected by Food Bank staff. Pecan were also trying to organise Christmas hampers, including perishable goods, for 100 families, and for this they required donations. It was agreed to put a poster about this at the back of the church.
Action: Michael Robinson
13.2 School Christmas services: Rachel explained that the School would be holding several rehearsals and carol services, and help was needed to lock the church at 12.30 p.m on Tuesday, 15 December and open it at 11.45 a.m on Thursday 17 December. Ben Hunt volunteered. Elizabeth Stanton had already volunteered to open the church on the Tuesday and Ben said he could cover this too if needed.
13.3 Christingle Services: There had been a low response to the appeal for additional stewards for the two afternoon Christingle services on Christmas Eve. A further appeal would go out the coming Sunday. Anne Coates offered to help with one of these.
- Date of next meeting
The PCC will next meet on Tuesday, 19 January 2015 after the 7.30 p.m. Mass.
The meeting closed at 9.50 p.m. With the Grace.
Paragraph 7b of Appendix B, Patronage (Beneficies) Measure 1986 – Filling of vacant benefices, relating to the appointment of Parish Representatives
Appointing two lay members of the PCC to act as the PCC’s representative in connection with the selection of an Incumbent. The persons mentioned above (outgoing incumbent and wife, Patron and his representative) as excluded from the meeting and all clerks in Holy Orders together with any Deaconess or lay worker licensed to the parish, are not eligible for appointment. If no representatives are appointed, the two Churchwardens have to act. The names and addresses of the representatives should again be sent (Form 34) as soon as practicable to the Patron and the Bishop.