How can we get support?: Tas Valley

Monday, 1 June, 2009

This story illustrates the principles of How can we get support? in the Guide.

The Tas Valley Cell Church is a rural cell church networking across a multi-parish benefice in Norfolk. Seven cell churches have grown up in six parishes since 2003, with many of their members recently coming into faith.

The cells, says rector Sally Gaze (in mission-shaped and rural: growing churches in the countryside, CHP, 2006),

worshipped and loved, they related to the wider church and respected the authority of its leaders, and participated in the sacraments... they engaged in mission.

Putting the cells together, the cell church was also as strongly attended as some Sunday services with around 8-10 members in each cell (making 40-50 members) compared with 6-45 in each parish church. In a mixed economy benefice, the question arose: how can a growing number of cell churches find their legal standing alongside the traditional churches?

We felt it was time to help the cell church grow up and take responsibility,

says Sally, who also wanted to give the cells a secure place within the benefice.

We felt that cell church members should give to the cell church. It also makes a statement that giving to church is not just about keeping buildings going – our cell church doesn't have a building.

So the benefice discussed with the diocese ways in which cell members could give to their church that would enable it to claim back tax as in traditional offertories. In 2005 a cell bank account was set up, an important step in acknowledging the Tas Valley cells as part of the Church of England as a whole.

The bank account, says Sally,

encourages us to sort out giving, to encourage Gift Aid and teach stewardship. The cells pay a couple of thousand towards the benefice share. This is less than their numerical strength would suggest because a number of people are brand new Christians who will take a time to sort out financial stewardship, and others are members of both cell and parish congregation.

We didn't want to reduce the income of parish congregations so where people are members of both cell and parish church, they either stick with their parish giving or give on top of that to the cell church. The proportion of benefice share that the cell church and all the PCCs pay is kept under annual review.

The cell church has a cell leaders' meeting rather than a PCC and is still

a peculiarity on the edge of the diocese. But in the benefice itself it is treated as an equal member of the team of churches and represented on our equivalent of a team council.

This is a learning point from: