I was in a chapel recently where the organ was so loud it was unpleasant.  I was told one could not simply turn down the volume.  Is this correct and has consideration been given to the size of the church? 

A great question. The question is really one of acoustics as well as the issue of the voicing of the organ. Part of the problem we have at the moment is that there are only loud stops really working. Coupled with that the pipes are being over blown and off pitch as a result. The new organ has a lot of “soft stops” on it. So when the organ is replaced there will be a lot more subtlety in the organ than at the moment. Coupled with that, the new position of the organ, up out of the way of the congregation will mean that the pipes will have a better chance at filling the church space much more effectively making it sound much better. So with the current organ not much chance of subtlety, with the new one, easily done.

Dealing with a project of this nature obviously involving engineers, sound specialists and other acoustic consultants where unexpected costs could be incurred to ensure that the installation of a new organ produces an outcome which was expected. Therefore, in most projects of a specialised nature there is an allowance for contingency costs and in this regard has an amount been allowed for?

 Bill Killinger has allowed a contingency of, I think its 15% on the organ and 5% on the engineering works. It works out over the whole project to be 10%. This is included in the full costings. The good news as I understand it is that if the contingency is not used, the overall cost will be less.

In replacing our existing organ is there a possibility of salvage in monetary terms and has that been allowed for in the costings. 

Not that I am aware of, but we are retaining the good Rendall pipes for use in an antiphonal section if that is funded at a future time, but it is not a part of the current project.

It is pleasing to read that there will be three or four questions pertaining to the organ to be answered at the AVM. It is important that the issues of endorsement (or otherwise) of the music direction, the specific organ proposed, and the financial proposal are kept separate. Last year those who opposed the particular funding proposal were taken by many to be opposed to the musical direction, whereas this was not the case at all. When will the motions be available to us?

I think I am happy for the first two motions to be available now, but I would like to have them discussed at PC for tidying up, however they will go something along the lines of,

1. Do you endorse the Vision for Music in the Parish as presented at the consultation on Feb 17?

2. Do you endorse the SIOC organ as the replacement organ for the Rendall? (Currently the only organ company who has quoted for the project)

The other two are financial questions, they may be conflated into one question. This is because the Wardens are wanting to have more care over the wording as they do not want to compromise their rights and responsibilities as Wardens under the Parochial Government Act. So, we are not sure whether the financing question will be along the lines of which model do you prefer, and do you approve the release of the FT monies as detailed in the endorsed model? Or, will it be another question? Just not sure at the moment. We are working on it, and we have the concept about what we want to ask, it’s simply a matter of getting the question right. All the questions bar the FT question will be a simple majority, the FT question must be 75%. This is why there is some discussion amongst the Wardens and myself as to whether there should be two or one question re the financial issue.


One of the major issues last year, which lay at the heart of some of the opposition to the expenditure on the organ, was the lack of ongoing communication regarding the finances of the Parish. It was requested, and I thought committed to, that the Treasurer would provide more regular updates of the Parish accounts so we could all see the state of our finances. This does not appear to have happened. This matter has been raised over many years but came to a crescendo last year. When will we see the changes the Parish has asked for? Is the Treasurer now able to make the 2017 accounts available during this consultation period, rather than waiting until a week before the AVM, to give parishioners time to understand and digest? (For these purposes it doesn’t matter if they are not yet audited).

 It is certainly my intention, and I think to be fair to James he is also in agreement, that there should be regular updates on the finances of the parish, are they ahead, behind, or on budget? I think those are good updates to have. The question becomes, how much information? For example, we have in the budget an amount for the fete, which usually comes in, at about 40K. Now, as I have sat through countless PC meetings the Treasurer has said on many occasions we are behind budget because certain expected items such as the fete haven’t come in yet, another example is Army money for Fr. Rob. So, a broad-brush stroke approach to the budget may not be that helpful, as what information do you put in to the update to give it context and not have it as a defacto Treasurers Report?

Another way would be to simply look at the offertory. This has its own problems. The first one is we don’t have an offertory pledge system. In a previous parish we did, and we had a parish recorder. People could ring up the recorder, and the recorder would have to ask them to divulge their pledge number and then they could be told whether they were ahead, behind or up to date with their pledge, and the person could, if they wish, rectify any deficit from their pledge. The other aspect was that at the Sunday after each PC meeting the Treasurer would report that the giving was ahead, behind, or on budget, based mainly on the pledges. It is true that not everyone was on the pledge system, but about 80% were, and so this gave a high confidence to the offertory. Here at St. Johns we require the Treasurer to make a guestimate based on past offertory performance. Now we could report on that, but it is an inexact science, and subject to wild fluctuations. We absolutely could say we are ahead, behind or on track for our budget of offertory, but it is really in one sense meaningless, because it is based on a guestimate. Do we then run the risk of making the parish feel guilty that we are behind based on nothing more than an educated guess? The corollary is we could make them feel complacent that we are ahead of budget, but it might be an illusion.

If anyone has any better ideas on this issue I am all ears.

As an example of this difficulty we face in trying to predict what the offertory will be, in the last 18 months we lost two families to overseas postings, and the loss of offertory was significant, who can budget or plan for that? One happened with 6 weeks’ notice the other a few months. Then there are the deaths, usually unexpected, as was in two recent cases, of very generous giving parishioners.

On top of that in the past, we have had extremely generous one-off donations to the offertory that were not expected, and made our bottom look much better, but it was only one or two families, and it was completely out of the blue. Again, who can plan for that? By the way, very happy for that sort of generosity to continue!!!!!!!

So, I am in favour of regular updates to the parish on the state of the budget, with all the caveats I have described above, and recognizing it is an inexact science. James our Treasurer does an excellent job gazing into his crystal ball each year trying to read the tea leaves and come up with a budget that satisfies PC and the Wardens. I have a personal extremely high level of confidence in the way he prepares the budget, he is extremely conservative in his guess work, and has shown to me, the Wardens and PC that his best guestimate is reliable and helpful, it just comes down to how do we communicate that effectively and more importantly meaningfully to the parish? (By the way if anyone reading this is concerned that the Treasurer really does read tea leaves or gaze into a crystal ball, as far as I am aware, he doesn’t, it is my way of imaginatively describing the process he goes through!!!)

With respect to the accounts to the AVM the Treasurer will make the accounts available to the parish in the manner and timing that he is required to do under the Ordinance. It is my understanding he has usually done that.