Parish Priest’s report to the 2015 AGM



During 2014 we lost only four parishioners through death, but in 2015 five have died so far in less than half a year, including one who combined being an atheist with active support, Sargy Mann.

Currently nine children are in preparation for their First Holy Communion which they will receive on 7 June and I take this opportunity of expressing particular thanks to Rebecca Clarke for undertaking the instruction of this group each Sunday morning. On 8 July, a Wednesday, Bishop Alan will administer Confirmation and we have an exceptionally large cohort of 15 in preparation. Several different people, including a number of our own parishioners, have been involved in giving instruction sessions to them on different themes. Last year five children were baptised and we have several more booked in over the summer. There will be two weddings.

The census in October showed a decrease of five in our average Sunday congregations (all Masses combined) to 140 which I believe to be roughly in line with other country parishes. This is obviously a matter of ongoing concern. On this measure we are the fifth smallest of the 50 parishes in the diocese.

Financially* we continue on the usual knife-edge, with income and expenditure finely balanced through the use of a carefully-monitored budget – for which prudence I am as always particularly grateful to our treasurer. Next year we will almost certainly have to find the money (some £26,000) for replacement of the church heating boiler which is now very old. This year we have spent money from a £5000 legacy of Peter Wells which largely covered the repainting of the nave of the church. Other smaller maintenance projects have taken place at both Bungay and Harleston.

As always I think we should renew out gratitude to those who give generously of their time in carrying out the essential offices both in Bungay and Harleston. It is always dangerous to thank by name for fear of missing someone out, but you all know who they are, whether on the Parish Council, the Finance Committee, The Pastoral Support Network, the Choir, the managements of our two halls, of the chapel at Harleston, the rotas for Eucharistic ministry, reading, serving, welcoming, flower arranging, altar preparation, linen-washing, coffee-making, cash-counting, maintenance or gardening. One new area of activity this year is the development of the new Parish Website ( and I am grateful to Mary Kirk, as communications officer, and the internet sub-committee for the considerable work that has gone into this ongoing project which opened at the beginning of Advent 2014. I believe we are one of the few parish websites in the diocese that is routinely up-dated each weekend.

In addition to CAFOD and its overseas aid, we are now in our fourth year of actively supporting a home charity, the Waveney Foodbank, which helps those in need of emergency assistance in the area. This scheme continues to attract a great deal of interest nationally, to the embarrassment of the Government (who should themselves be providing a safety net). More volunteers are needed so please give that some thought to that.

Our Chapel at St Thomas More, Harleston, continues as a fairly distinct geographical congregation but is sadly expecting the departure of David and Anne Lowe and Kath and Julia Lister. It has recently opened a produce stall in aid of CAFOD.

The problems concerning our Federated Catholic Primary Schools (St Edmund’s and St Benet’s) which caused so much extra governors’ input in 2014 have largely subsided with the appointment of an excellent acting Head Teacher, Mr Ivan Mulinder, but the amount of routine meetings and governor involvement is still taking up more time than was previously the case.  It is good to report general agreement that despite these problems the children appear to be happy and safe and that the school continues to be oversubscribed

This year we repeated the Day of Recollection in Lent which seems to have been appreciated. We also had a Parish Outing to Dunwich. Once again there are calls for another outing this year, probably to Wymondham Abbey on Thursday 23 July.

Ecumenical activity continues; the meetings of clergy in both towns are regular and beneficial but joint services are not well attended apart from that on Remembrance Sunday.

At Downside Abbey, our sponsor, owner and trustee, Abbot Aidan’s term of office came to an end in August 2014 and, at the unanimous request of the community Prior Administrator (Fr Leo Maidlow Davis) was appointed until such time as the community feels ready to hold an abbatial election.

Deaths and retirements of ageing clergy (including myself) in both the monastery and the diocese will inevitably continue and reach a crisis point sooner or later. As I have warned before, they may trigger the need for a generous response and increased input from our parishioners and the remaining clergy. I have personally taken on two new tasks at a time when, by age, I should be reducing my workload (Episcopal Vicar for Religious for the Diocese and, since last month, Economus of the Downside Missions Trust – responsible for the finances of all Downside’s parishes). In some ways I enjoy both these jobs but it is not ideal for the parish that my time is increasingly squeezed and often “days off” just don’t happen and I become impatient and grumpy. Also our new bishop seems to be fairly tireless himself and expects others to be likewise! Next week I celebrate the ninth anniversary of my arrival in the parish and I am now in my 75th year so by diocesan norms officially due for retirement.

So as always I would like to express my thanks for all the help and support I have received from you, which I really appreciate. Finally I would like to encourage you all to give thanks for the many Divine gifts we have received and urge prayer for the resolution of the big issues that trouble us, both local and universal.

Father Charles     30.5.15

* The draft accounts for the year to 31 December 2014 are available to registered members of the Parish by email attachment. Contact