Empty pews and collection plates take a financial toll on West Country churches

170720-Empty pews at St Mary’s Church in Tetbury-ITV News West Country
The pews at St Mary’s Church in Tetbury have remained empty for sometime due to the pandemic Credit: ITV News West Country

Churches across the region are having to dip into their financial reserves after the Covid-19 pandemic has seen a drop in donations.

Gloucester Cathedral say it is facing the biggest challenge in its thousand-year history, losing more than £1million worth of income.

Meanwhile, St Mary's Church in Tetbury has lost 25% of its budgeted income.

The last time Gloucester Cathedral was at risk was when it closed its doors in 1208 when the pope and king fell out.

Gloucester cathedral has suffered huge losses due to the outbreak Credit: ITV News West Country

Not even the black death lead it to close. But when Covid-19 hit, the extraordinary piece of medieval architecture fell silent for 60 days.

But it has now reopened for worship and visitors, and is starting to bring in a much-needed income.

The Cathedral is now open to visitors and for worship Credit: ITV News West Country

The Very Reverend Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester said: "Being a charity we rely on donations."

"And we need that not necessarily for the building itself for what the building does.

"We need to come back to community celebrations and community service.

"And to do that we need to be able to plug that gap, which is why we are asking people once in a generation to help us.”

The Cathedral is normally open every day helping the local community of Gloucester. As is every church in every town or village.

St Mary's church in Tetbury Credit: ITV News West Country

25 miles away in Tetbury the pews and collection plate at St Mary's Church lie empty. It is now having to dip into its financial reserves.

Reverend Poppy Huges says: “The absolute bedrock for our finances are the people from the congregation who give month in month out so faithfully and that’s wonderful.

"However, there are other streams of income that have either shrunk or disappeared.

"So for us we are now looking at a 25 per cent shortfall on our budgeted income which is really significant for us.”

Damage where the ceiling fell down at St Mary’s Church. Credit: ITV News West Country

St Mary’s Church is Grade 1 listed, and it has an ongoing repair bill. While in lockdown a piece of its ceiling came away. It can only be repaired using costly specialist lime plaster - which is why a regular income is so important.

Many of the popular churches would expect to have a wedding most weekends in the Spring and Summer months.

Churches received around £250 in fees per service which  is a big loss of income, with many of the wedding couples delaying their ceremonies until 2021.