Congregational Federation Ltd
Congregational Federation Ltd was formed to act as trustee of the Federations assets, and also as custodian trustee for the majority of churches affiliated to the Congregational Federation.
Congregational Federation Ltd does not work in isolation to the Federation, indeed quite the opposite. Two years ago the decision was made to restructure the operations of CF and CFL, bringing the two much more closer together than at any time since the formation of the entities back in the 1970’s. During 2012, the consequences of the decision to aspire to a closer partnership were worked through. For example, now, we have one finance department responsible for the ‘joint’ finances of both CF and CFL, and the General Secretary and I share joint administrative support in the offices at Nottingham. The investments of CFL previously managed in isolation, are now managed under the one umbrella. The benefits mean that as a small organization, we can be more efficient internally. There is often a misconception that CF/ CFL are large organisations. Sometimes, in the case of CFL perhaps because the word ‘Limited’ appears at the end of our name people mistakenly think that we are larger than we are both in terms of practical and financial resources. The fact of the matter is that we are a small team and as a small unit we do well all things considered. There is a common goal at CF/ CFL, and that is to support our churches in achieving their goals, and deal with the challenges they face in a wide variety of ways.
The closer working relationship between CF and CFL is about trying to provide a better service to our churches, the ‘joint’ finance support function headed up by Gary Baker, and there is now better cover within the office to deal with trustee related finance issues. CFL holds significant investments for many churches – an amount of in excess of £5 million. This ‘holding’ service lifts the burden on church officers, particularly in small congregations, for the safeguarding of these financial assets.
In terms of Trusteeship – let’s remind ourselves of what it’s all about. The work of the trustee function has a number of different facets. As Trustees we hold legal title for many Churches and associated properties, and much of what is done is related to this aspect. Over the past year we have been involved in property sales (for both closed and open churches), rent reviews, lease negotiations and many other kinds of property issues including insurance and of course financial administration.
Often I am approached when there is a particular problem, and frequently offer advice. Churches come to me with a variety of different issues and problems ranging from people issues to property issues. Often I am approached when a church is facing a problem it has not encountered before, or perhaps there is not the experience within the church to deal with the problem. My involvement in these kinds of situations is to help the church find a way to work through the issue, sometimes it’s a steer in the right direction, sometimes I am asked to visit a church to help. I like churches to think of this service as a resource available to them which we gladly provide. The strength of CF and CFL is that we can offer this at no charge to our churches. Unlike some other bodies, CFL makes no charge for trusteeship and advice. Often talking through a particular issue with me in the first instance can save a church both time and money.
If a particular issue requires specialist advice, then I will suggest further reference or dialogue with the appropriate professionals for example Surveyor, Solicitor or Accountant depending on the particular problem. Our Company Solicitors are Nelsons, a large regional firm that has relevant experience in across a number of key areas. They have a good knowledge of Charity Law and the Congregational Federation. Churches are also free to obtain advice locally but any issues relating to property, for example a plan to sell or redevelop, should be advised to us at the earliest opportunity. I’d encourage our Churches to
think of us as advisors and also facilitators.
Sometimes, we have to remind people involved in the administration of our churches of their obligations, and on occasions ask a few questions. This is part of trusteeship, and we all have a shared duty to ensure everything is above board in every area of church operations. This applies equally to both Custodian Trustees and Managing Trustees who are responsible for the day to day management of a church. It’s therefore about protecting and trying to look after the best interests of Congregational Churches, and this includes protecting both the assets and indeed individuals who are involved in administering them and upholding the trusts.
I am keen to update the information we hold here in Nottingham and over the coming months plan to write to each church. Your assistance in compiling and returning the information would be of great help, and indeed churches may find it a useful exercise to work through as well.
The proceeds of church property sales, where permitted, are being used for Congregational purposes. The net effect is the rechannelling of congregational assets for furthering the Congregational way.
I’d also like to mention the closed church at Heaton Park. At this facility we now have the Youth and Children’s office, and also ‘The Studio’ – a regeneration project that seeks to reach out to others and encourage them to explore God in new and different ways. Again, this is an example of moving on.
I am very conscious in my role of managing the trustee body, that these are tough times for many of our churches. For many, who have not embarked on any review and change strategy times will be especially tough and there is no getting away from that fact many will struggle. I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage ‘change’. I think that sometimes we are all guilty of perhaps looking back more than looking forward at times.
Positive change enriches and re-energises us. I’d be more than happy to help and advise your church if asked to talk through any issues that you may have so don’t be afraid to get in touch. I won’t pretend to have all the answers and solutions, but sometimes it’s just good to talk.