Clergyman at church near Oxford is put on furlough for three months

Clergyman at church near Oxford is put on furlough for three months after Church of England warned it may have to cut staff as it faces cash crisis amid fears a FIFTH of worshippers may never return after pandemic

  • Hugh Barne cannot continue ministry at St Mary’s Church until after April 30
  • Mr Barne will still be able to train as he looks for another job with a new ministry
  • Earlier this month it was revealed that the Church of England faces a financial crunch after donations fell by 20 per cent during the pandemic

Hugh Barne has been furloughed for three months

A curate at a church near Oxford has been furloughed for three months – after the Church of England warned staff might need to be cut amid falling numbers of worshippers. 

The Oxford Diocese decided to furlough all paid curates who are in their fourth year of training, meaning Hugh Barne cannot continue ministry at St Mary’s Church in Wargrave until after April 30. 

Mr Barne, who lives with wife Grace and their one-year-old son Isaac, will still be able to train as he looks for another job with a new ministry.

He had been at the Berkshire church since July 2017, the Henley Standard reports. 

Earlier this month it was revealed that the Church of England faces a financial crunch after donations fell by 20 per cent during the pandemic with 5,000 of its 12,000 parishes now loss-making.

Mr Barne said: ‘It is a shame in a way to be taken away from parish activities but is a good opportunity to apply for jobs.

‘The diocese is encouraging me to think about next steps and where I will be off to. It can be hard to give job applications the right amount of time in the midst of everything else.

‘There’s time for family, reflection and reading, so there are lots of positives about it. It has been a difficult time to apply for jobs but we keep looking for the next step and pray for the right thing to come up.’

Senior clergy also said they believe up to fifth of regular worshippers may never return once the coronavirus crisis is over – and the number of paid priests could be cut by 20 per cent.  

The average age of a CofE member is 61. The Archbishop of York is now launching a new strategy this month to attract more young and BAME worshippers.

Vicar of Wargrave, Rev John Cook, said Mr Barne had been looking to move to another parish as his curacy comes to an end, but one of the side effects of the pandemic was few had been advertising or interviewing.  

‘We will find a way of having a proper farewell to Hugh, Grace and Isaac when they do move,’ he added. 

A reduced workload means admin manager Lucy Bowley and communications manager Ros Heath will work alternating weeks, on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  

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