Suffolk churches facing £1m shortfall after Covid

St Edmundsbury Cathedral(Photo: Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich)

The pandemic has pushed the Church of England in Suffolk into the red, with diocesan leaders seeking donations to help plug the gap.

Bishop Martin Seeley and Bishop Mike Harrison are writing to a thousand Anglicans in the area to consider donating this Christmas, the East Anglican Daily Times.

Bishops are seeking £500,000 in donations to help the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich ease a £1.6m cash shortfall.

Bishop Seeley told the newspaper the pandemic had hit the diocese's finances hard and that the forecast for 2021 was looking equally challenging.

"We have worked hard these past five years to make our finances sustainable in the long term and turn a deficit into a modest surplus but, as a result of Covid-19 we are now facing un unprecedented deficit of £1.6million this year and likely a similar sum next," he said. 

The pandemic has left churches in the county having to be self-reliant in paying clergy salaries and maintaining their buildings, while also running outreach in their communities, all at a time when traditional revenue from church events and hall bookings has been wiped out because of Covid-19.

The diocese has already been promised a £600,000 grant from Church Commissioners and is looking for donations to fill up the rest of the shortfall.

The bishop said that in spite of the crisis, he was not considering closing churches. 

"I cannot see how we can sustain the life of the church in Suffolk with fewer clergy than we have, and closing churches isn't the answer," he said.

"We are committed to maintaining a presence in every community, and we have seen over these last months how vital this has been. This is why we are asking friends of the church and of the diocese for help."