Synod Council Approves Suite of Financial Supports

New measures to help parishes weather the pandemic’s impacts

Posted April 15, 2020

“We’re in this together as a whole diocese,” is the most important message Bishop Susan Bell wanted to communicate when speaking of the COVID-19 Parish Financial Support Plan. The plan was approved by synod council on April 14, meeting for the first time ever, by Zoom video conferencing.

“Our clergy and lay leaders have been so hard at work these last weeks trying to cope with and mitigate the financial effects of this COVID-19 pandemic, while doing everything they can to reimagine their important ministries,” says Bishop Bell. “This plan helps alleviate some of the worries parish corporations are feeling so that they can more fully focus on the mission of God.”

The plan has four primary components:

  • making parish contributions towards diocesan mission and ministry assessments voluntary for the period in which worship services are suspended;
  • offering interest-free loans to parishes of as much as $10,000;
  • waiving interest charges on accounts and historic debt payments; and
  • creating the diocesan COVID-19 Parish Support Fund to provide extraordinary support to parishes faced with severe financial hardships.

This suite of financial supports is designed to complement recently announced government programs, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, and to be nimble in order to respond to emerging parish needs.

“The pandemic has affected the finances of our parishes in a variety of ways and no one parish’s circumstance is the same,” says Bishop Bell. “But we have a gift: our diocesan structure is perfectly designed to help us weather this storm by drawing on our collective gifts and strengths in order to support parishes which have a greater need for support and resources.”

By establishing the COVID-19 Parish Support Fund, parishes faced with severe financial hardships, will also be able to ask for funds from the diocese to enable their ministries to continue. Synod council set aside $150,000 for this purpose, and the hope is that requests will be considered within a week of being received.

“For the handful of parishes which have exhausted other available means of raising needed funds, the Parish Support Fund will be there to help as yet another example of our mutual care for one another during this difficult time,” says Bishop Bell.

The full plan is premised on an understanding that each parish will take advantage of these supports in a decent and upright manner in order to sustain their ministries during the pandemic crisis.