Friday, 24 May 2013


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Setting the record straight on funds for church garden
RJ Bingham ("Why not everything in these gardens is lovely", Mailbox, May 20) is concerned about the Diocese of Leicester's plans for funding Cathedral Gardens.
He wittily suggests that as the wall obstructing views in and out of the Guildhall is currently being reduced, so we also remove the "wall of silence" from the diocese on the whole topic, although the rest of his/her letter seems to contain remarkably few actual questions on which we could be accused of being silent.
What it does contain is a number of inaccurate statements, which I'm glad of the chance to respond to.
Firstly it speaks of the diocese "accepting a £1.9 million grant from the city".
I'm not sure where these figures are supposed to have come from but the fact is that no such "grant" exists.
What is proposed is that the city will undertake work to the adjacent highways that it is responsible for, which is likely to amount to about £1.5 million.
The city's capital programme is there for public works and this is an excellent example of such works that will bring benefit to the whole city and its many and increasing number of visitors – which will, of course, itself bring benefits to the local economy.
The cathedral is looking to raise the balance of the funds needed from grants and benefactors – a significant amount of which has already been pledged.
Then the suggestion is made that by entering into constructive partnership with the city authorities in one area, the Church somehow forgoes the right to be critical of any other aspects of their work.
The truth is that, as a Church, we are always ready both to support those in need – as witness the considerable work already carried out both from St Martin's House and parishes up and down the city and county.
We are also always ready to speak up where there is a proper case to be made. Bishop Tim has been foremost among those challenging the Government cuts which are themselves the background to the changes the city has been forced into in its support for homeless people.
Finally, that old cliché about "the Church's millions" is rolled out.Yes, the diocese has capital assets – though considerably less than many local individuals, for example.
These are held in trust for a wide range of work, mainly for the support of parishes, and are fully put to use for that purpose.
The cathedral, unlike more ancient foundations, has very meagre endowment funds and it's just not true to say it can lay out large sums on a whim.
What it can do – and is doing under the leadership of David Monteith, its new Dean – is offer a generous welcome in God's name to all the people who live in or visit our city and provide a healthy challenge to the dominant story of our age, that money is all and the things of the spirit are of no significance.
We have a story that began in one garden in Eden, passes through another in Gethsemane and ends in a heaven often portrayed as a garden of paradise. It's no surprise we'd like to welcome as many as possible through our own gardens in the years to come – and will gladly partner with whoever shares our vision for the healing of humanity.
Pete Hobson, acting Canon Missioner, Leicester Cathedral

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