Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)
Solemn Vespers and Benediction – 1 October(click to download PDF)
The Rector writes ...
As Catholics we recognise that we have obligations – to God, to the Church and to one another. First among these is our attendance at Sunday Mass and then the need for daily prayer. Jesus tied the two great commandments together so that love of God finds its natural expression in our concern for neighbour. Almsgiving is therefore not just a pragmatic reaction to need in others but a basic acceptance that we are stewards of all that we possess. To quote again from Saint Thomas Aquinas: “human beings came into existence when the key of love opened God’s hand”. If those words mean anything, they must signify that our response to God should not be just a matter of obligation and duty (which it is) but a freely offered return of love for love. “Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active: only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth” (I John 3:19).
You might have noticed that work on what was the old convent building next to the rectory is nearing completion. The refurbishment will provide three one bedroom flats and a three bedroomed maisonette. When these are leased they should provide a regular income (part of the cost has been met with a loan from the Archdiocese which has to be paid back within seven years) and together with the rental from the parts of the crypt which are already let the parish finances should be secure. Over the coming years we do need to build up a reserve so that we can maintain the church building in its present state of repair and be prepared for any contingencies. One of the myths associated with Spanish Place is that we are a “rich” parish. We do live in an affluent area but the expenditure required just to keep our complex in good order is commensurately high and our annual budget now exceeds £500,000. If you keep an eye on the amount raised by direct giving each week you will see that this raises no more than about one third of what is needed and without rental income there would have to be major cutbacks.
Some of our parishioners are very generous (there is an example of this in another section of this newsletter) and any appeal is met with a ready response, but the average giving per head, per week, is stuck at around £2.50p. This means that many of those who attend Saint James’s are contributing virtually nothing to the upkeep and mission of the parish. It is somewhat depressing for the counters to be faced with an array of pennies and foreign coins when the bags are emptied on a Sunday evening. Clearly, we must bear in mind Jesus’s teaching about the Widow’s Mite, and it may be that those on limited incomes are giving proportionately all that they can afford, but for many, it would seem. almsgiving is just not being taken seriously enough. If all that we can return to God is some loose change then we do need to re-asses our relationship to the One who is the source of everything we are and everything we have.
As Parish Priest, I have the responsibility of oversight for Spanish Place’s present and of provision for its future. With a Sunday Mass attendance of between 1300-1400, and many more using the building during the week, we should have no problem in establishing a sound financial base, but, of course, almsgiving is essentially about so much more than raising enough money to keep the ship afloat. It is about how we understand ourselves before God, and as such is a fairly accurate way of gauging our spiritual temperature. “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours … all things come from you, and from your own we give back to you” (I Chronicles 29:13).