Old boiler

However long you have been a member of the General Synod you always have new experiences. So today we were treated to quite a long part of the debate on Faculty Jurisdiction on the replacement of old boilers. I have, of course, had a great many discussions about boilers when I was a vicar and now that I am a Dean. When the boiler fails it is a disaster and, as was pointed out in the debate, this does normally happen when you need it must, when the temperature has dropped and you are wanting your church, or cathedral, to be as welcoming and warm as possible.

This time last year Synod made the brave decision, prophetic in many ways, to go for Net Zero Carbon by 2030. This is now beginning to focus all our attention and imagination. How do we get there when our boilers are often inefficient and old, when our buildings leak hot air (the kind that comes from radiators not preachers) and when we are faced with the challenges of significant listed ancient and much loved buildings and a lack of financial resources to do the work that needs to be done.

The debate however was whether replacing your boiler could be on list B rather than list A. That would mean that it could be given permission by the archdeacon rather than by the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC). In the end Synod resisted that, even though it would make it much easier to change the boiler when it finally failed. But as some contributors pointed out, we really need expertise when we do that which might not always be available on a PCC. The DAC provides that expertise. But I do think that the processes need to be more efficient than is sometimes the experience in parishes. Just so we are clear Cathedrals have a separate process of permissions for this kind of work – FACs – Fabric Advisory Committees, which have great expertise and the CFCE (Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England) which really helps with these major pieces of work.

The good news, however, is that the installation of broadband to a church or its hall has been moved to list B and so can be approved by the relevant archdeacon (or it will be when this is approved by Parliament). Given that broadband is vital now to many churches in their mission and outreach – and Cathedrals as well – this is good news. Connectivity to the outside world is as vital as your electricity supply.

Later on there was a debate on a report on Clergy Remuneration. It is a subject that I don’t really feel able to comment on. I am on a higher stipend as a dean compared with most of my ordained sisters and brothers. I have a lovely house to live in. All my expenses are met and because I am who I am people take me out for meals and invite me to the theatre, all free of charge. Oh that it was like that as a curate! Never having had a job for more than a year – when I was a door-to-door rent collector in Wellingborough – I didn’t have much by way of savings, came from a background in which we didn’t go into debt but only spent when we had the money to do so. So I was without stair carpet for the first 18 months of my curacy and had other people’s cast-off furniture (this was pre-Ikea). But then I had low expectations; we did back then. Now all our expectations are higher and I understand that. But how we meet those expectations with which people now enter ordained ministry I do not quite know.

Someone whispered to me in the chamber that Jesus said

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ (Luke 9.58)

which is all fine and dandy for me but not if I had a family, children, dependents, and in fact I want somewhere to lay my head and a decent boiler in my house as in my church. Vocation should not be an excuse for undervaluing the clergy.

God of renewal, may we treat all that you have given us with love and respect. Amen.

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