5:50pm Thursday 12th April 2012
By Fran Bardsley
WORSHIPPERS are hoping long-awaited improvements to their church can be carried out this year thanks to reorganisation of the parish’s assets.
SS Mary and John Church, in Cowley Road, Oxford, needs to spend between £100,000 and £200,000 on improvements, including an office, kitchen and disabled toilet.
Traditionally it would take years to collect through fundraising, but thanks to property bought decades ago and a switch around in assets, the church now hopes it will be in a position to start work this year.
Early meetings are already being held with architects.
Initially it was feared the church would not be able to afford the scheme and also hold on to a house it rents out as seven flats in nearby Magdalen Road.
The Rev Adam Romanis said: “We own a very large property in Magdalen Road and in 2002-2003 we did a massive refurbishment, because it had been pretty run down, and converted it into seven self-contained flats.”
The church took out a mortgage to pay for the improvements, but ongoing maintenance costs threatened its ability to keep the flats, which were costing more money than they were making.
Then, following a grant from the charitible Ferris Trust, church treasurer Jim Barlow spotted that if a smaller property it owned was sold, the mortgage for Magdalen Road could be paid off in full.
And there would be enough left over to maintain and renovate the flats and to press ahead with improvements at the church.
Mr Romanis said: “We wanted to keep Magdalen Road as a long-term investment because we knew initially we weren’t going to make any money out of the property. In a sense that was proved right because when we looked at the finances more recently we realised we could do this.
“It has essentially allowed us to consolidate our assets and now that the property is free of mortgage that immediately benefits the parish income by about £30,000 a year.”
All the flats are let out at a market rate, with a member of church staff living in one flat and the others let to members of the public.
Mr Romanis warned that churches everywhere were having to look to additional sources of income beyond regular donations from worshippers.
He said: “While people’s giving is generous, we are becoming more reliant on investment income to pay the regular bills and keep things going.
“This is a very positive move and it’s really thanks to a member of our congregation who had the brainwave of reconsolidating our property and assets in order to achieve this. We owe a lot to him.”
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