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Priorities Fund focuses on training, education and innovation

Roy Totten, Chairman, Priorities Fund Committee.
Roy Totten, Chairman, Priorities Fund Committee.

The Church of Ireland Priorities Fund is reshaping its focus in 2017–18 in order to better support projects in the Church which provide training, education, outreach and innovative ministries.

“Each year, the Church of Ireland Priorities Fund has the privilege and responsibility of distributing over €500,000 to projects throughout the Church,” says Roy Totten, who chairs the Priorities Fund Committee. “This, in turn, reflects the generosity of all twelve dioceses and many parishes and individuals.” Since its foundation in 1980, the fund has provided over €17 million in resources for growth to fulfil the first priority of the Church – the spiritual welfare of people. It was set up following the publication of the 1979 First of All report, which encouraged the Church to view problems as opportunities for expansion and called for a willingness to question and change traditional methods. This report’s message is still highly relevant in today’s fast–changing context.

Around 90 per cent of grants support parishes and associated organisations and the remainder mainly support diocesan work with children and young people. Projects supported in 2016 included the new centre of mission in North Belfast, the setting up of a chaplaincy at Dublin Institute of Technology, and outreach by the Dioceses of Meath and Kildare at the National Ploughing Championships.

The fund’s criteria have changed over time to keep it relevant to the changing context of Christian ministry in Ireland, and a set of new criteria is now in place for applications received in 2017–18. These cover four areas:

• Training;
• Christian education;
• Outreach initiatives; and
• Innovative ministry in a rural context.

The fund will be available to support post–ordination and clergy–in–service training as well as training for lay ministry and ministry with children, young people and students.
Christian education covers the development of RE in schools, youth and children’s ministry, and adult education. 

The last two criteria seek to encourage creative and innovative projects which reach out to the communities which our parishes serve (including church plants and missional areas), and also those which operate in sparsely populated areas or in rural and village settings.

The fund is not intended as a source of support for building projects but a list of grants for Church of Ireland properties is available at www.ireland.anglican.org/parish–resources

“The Priorities Fund Committee has a membership from across the island and committee members are available to discuss potential applications,” Mr Totten explains. “They also welcome opportunities to visit projects to see how the funding is being used on the ground. The committee would also encourage recipients to return the evaluation forms provided in order to better understand how funds have been used, and also to identify any lessons for the future; this is especially helpful when projects have been funded over two years.”

Application forms are available from the Organiser, Mrs Sylvia Simpson, who can be contacted at Church House, Dublin, on 01 4125 607 or via email at priorities@ireland.anglican.org. Once a form has been completed, the applicant is advised to check with the Organiser whether the application needs to be vetted before being submitted to the Priorities Fund Committee. Parish and diocesan projects must be vetted by the appropriate Diocesan Council, and projects involving youth work must be vetted by the Church of Ireland Youth Department.

The closing date for applications is 31st October. To find out more about how the fund may be able to help in your ministry, please contact the Organiser or a committee member, visit our website (www.priorities.ireland.anglican.org) or come and meet us at our stand at General Synod and Diocesan Synods.

In conclusion, Mr Totten remarks: “In reshaping our continuing focus around training, education, outreach and innovative ministry, the Priorities Fund seeks help the Church to take steps of faith in reaching out to those beyond the walls of our churches, and to train lay and ordained people for innovative ministry in every context.”

This article was first published in The Church of Ireland Gazette.  The fund is now open for applications. Forms can be downloaded at www.priorities.ireland.anglican.org and are also available by contacting Mrs Sylvia Simpson, Priorities Fund Office, Church of Ireland House, Church Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin 6, D06 CF47. Tel: 00 353 1 4125 607. Email: priorities@ireland.anglican.org

Alternatively, donate to the Priorities Fund by clicking here.