The matter is made more complicated as the taxation system in Jersey supports the parish churches and there is therefore no complete segregation between Church and State. In 2016, for example, St Lawrence Church received £15,000.00 from St Lawrence ratepayers and the ratepayers also dipped their hands in their pockets to pay £2,751.00 in rectory expenses. St Lawrence ratepayers are also paying £80,000 towards the new church toilet, which is expected to cost £145,000. Originally 34 people voted to spend this money at a parish assembly, at which neither parish Deputies were present. In my opinion if you are funding something through taxation those paying should have an accessible mechanism to say how it is spent.
I was pleased to read that Reverend Phil Warren, the Church Rector, who up to now appeared to be a man on a mission, has decided to suspend work. No doubt his Christian beliefs extend to understanding the feelings of those in opposition. A unified parish that respects the views of the majority, coupled with real values of compassion, understanding, and acceptance of the opinions of others, is far more important than a toilet. Hopefully the Deputies will turn up to the proposed parish assembly, as will more parishioners given the heightened publicity.
One other element to come out of this is that parish assemblies are not a democratic vehicle in which to take financial decisions in 2018. The percentage of parishioners aware that they were spending £80,000 on a church toilet was tiny. With electronic communication it should be relatively simple to get everyone informed and involved in these decisions. It’s not just the church fabric that’s medieval, so is the whole democratic process in Jersey.
In researching this piece I noted how different the standards of the minutes were between parishes. St Lawrence minutes were very comprehensive, noting whether the parish Deputies were present or not for example, whereas St Clement’s minutes appeared to have been done on the back of a fag packet, which is both unsatisfactory and unacceptable.