Episcopal Diocese of Vermont confronts financial squeeze

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont is considering its next steps after a recent financial analysis revealed problems.

“Fewer people may mean fewer dollars coming in to those congregations and thus those congregations giving fewer dollars to support the dioceses,” said the Diocese’s Rev. Walter Brownridge. This is the flow of finances for the church in Vermont and he fears they will struggle to support their 45 congregations. “We knew we were facing some real challenges in a few years if we didn’t change course.”

There are less than 6,000 Episcopalians in the state, a number that is on the decline due to various reasons, including an aging demographic.

“I’m almost 80 myself and I’m not particularly unusual in our congregation, and there are a lot of parishes like this that are losing members due to attrition, to deaths, to people moving away,” said Glenn Sproul, a member of the All Saints Episcopal Church in South Burlington.

“Remember, we’re in Vermont. It’s very different than maybe in the south. I don’t hear that about the Episcopal churches in the south,” said Margaret MacLean, another parishioner.

If the diocese can’t financially support their congregations, Brownridge says he fears they won’t have the funds to participate in the community and make an impact outside the walls of the physical church building. “We’re not able, as a diocese, to function organizationally. We’re not able to provide the kind of resources they need. I think that would be where an average Episcopalian in a small parish somewhere in Vermont would feel it,” he said.

All Saints is one of the larger churches in the diocese but is still small compared to other religious congregations in the region. “You get close to everybody and you welcome the new people with open arms and make them part of you,” MacLean said.

The diocese plans to create a task force to focus on revitalizing the church and analyzing where they can be most efficient. While no concrete steps have been taken, Brownridge says they plan to consider partnering with other nearby dioceses and want to see how they can engage younger members.

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