Alan Rowell’s Talk

What we are doing tonight is launching a new organisation – the Friends of Pendeen Church, the purpose of which is very simple – to look after our church building and grounds:  In fact, any money raised can only legally be used for that purpose, and no other.

Perhaps at this point I should simply shut up and ask for any questions or clarifications:  Otherwise I know I am in danger of making a very simple thing sound complicated!

But I would just like to say a couple of things, which have convinced me Personally, that the Friends of Pendeen Church is a good idea:  And, as I thought about this I realised that what I want to say is summed up by some words carved in stone inside Pendeen Church!  The tablet is on the wall up the top of the church just near the altar-rail:-

Clearly the man who built Pendeen Church, our first vicar, was quite a guy!  In fact for a time he gave a new word to the English language – an Aitkenite was a person who had been converted through Robert Aitken on one of his missions!

Now the relevance to us tonight, is that it shows very clearly that if you are a member of the Church of England you are into something very much larger than your own village:  And if fact, if you put money in the collection-plate on a Sunday you are not just keeping a roof over your own head – you are also helping to support a national organisation.

Now I do personally believe that the Church of England is worth supporting, but I quite understand that there will be some people who are not so sure as I am on that point – and yet think it is a good idea to have a lovely Church of England church-building in their own village:  They can see that is something worth supporting.  Well our new organisation is being set up with these people in mind.

But, is it really necessary to go to the trouble of making the new organisation a separate thing, legally, from Pendeen Church itself?  The answer to this question is also on the stone tablet, since you will see we are told that
THE SUM OF £1500 IN AUGMENTATION OF THIS BENEFICE WAS SUBSCRIBED…

In other words, Aitken’s friends gave this, as it was then, very large sum of money, for the purpose that the interest from it would be used to pay their future vicars:  In those days, there were rich parishes and poor parishes:  Some rich parishes paid their vicars very well, while the vicar of a poor parish would find it hard to scrape by:  Aitken’s friends thought they were making sure that the vicar of Pendeen would always be a bit better off than the poorest vicars.

So what happened to that £1500?

The answer is that the Church of England has long since evened things up, pooled all the money, so there would no longer be very rich and very poor vicars, just all modestly off!

Now actually this process took some years, and so, when I was still in my Twenties, and newly ordained to a parish in London, I sat on the London Diocesan Synod, the new legislation all sounded very convincing –

  • The vicars’ incomes had been evened out long since
  • The money from the church lands had all been similarly pooled, all well before my time

–  Now we were involved in doing the same to what was referred to as the church’s “ancient endowments”:

Some churches had always had loads of money, and some had always been scraping by:  The proposals sounded very attractive, but I noticed the old boy next to me was looking grim, and that he voted against:

After he lost the vote he turned to me and mumbled
“I don’t know about ancient endowments: but I knew the man who gave most of the money to St. Luke’s, and he thought he was giving it to St Luke’s – not to the Church of England in general!”

Perhaps the fact that I have remembered that old boy for over 30 years proves a point:  And there must be a point in making sure that if people give money to Pendeen Church, it can only legally be used for what they thought they were giving their money to.