It is my privilege to introduce this year’s Annual Report of the Grace Baptist Trust Corporation, my first as Chairman. I must express my gratitude to David Bucknall for serving so faithfully as our Chairman for the past four years and I would also like to thank all my other colleagues on the Council who give their time, not only in attending committee meetings, but also in giving their professional advice so willingly. During the year we welcomed Simon Partington to the Board. Simon is an architect by profession and, living in Halifax, will be able to represent the interests of the churches in Yorkshire.
|David Bucknall||Simon Partington|
We feel that it has been a reasonably successful year for us as we have sought to help our family of churches. As a Trustee of charitable land and property we have been able to give extensive advice to churches regarding the land and buildings for which they are responsible. For some time we have been supporting the officers of the church in Calne who were involved in negotiations with officials at Wiltshire Council who wished to develop a “Town Square” on part of the church’s land and this project was successfully concluded during the year. Another project that had been underway for some time, the extension to the chapel in Newquay, was successfully completed during the year and representatives from the Council and the office staff were pleased to attend the thanksgiving service that was held in May.
The Corporation serves as a trustee of a number of chapels and trust funds and during the year was appointed as the trustee of the chapel and manse in Ramsey in Cambridgeshire. The Corporation’s programme of property inspections of those chapels of which the Corporation is a trustee continues and the Corporation is working with the churches to implement the surveyor’s recommendations. The church that meets in Zion Chapel, Lea were concerned to receive the surveyor’s report on the condition of their chapel but we have been pleased to assist the church members by overseeing the necessary remedial work on the chapel and by offering financial assistance from one of the Trust Funds administered by the Corporation.
Towards the end of 2008 the Directors issued extensive guidance to the churches regarding the requirements of the Charities Act 2006 that churches with an income in excess of £100,000 per annum register with the Charity Commission and during the current year the office staff have been heavily involved in assisting individual churches in the process. It is gratifying to note that the negotiations held between officers of the Corporation and the Charity Commission, and the advice subsequently issued to the churches, seems to have been an unqualified success as churches that have registered have found the process to be very straightforward. It is anticipated that similar assistance will be given to a considerable number of churches in the coming years and for this reason, among others, my colleagues on the Council and I have decided that a period of consolidation is necessary before further initiatives are considered. We have adopted a Strategic Plan entitled “Consolidating our Position” to ensure that existing initiatives are completed satisfactorily and that future opportunities are seized when the time is right.
I am pleased to say that although there are a number of charitable organisations with similar objectives to ourselves, we all work together in partnership rather than in competition with each other. In particular, the Corporation enjoys cordial relations with the various Associations of Grace Baptist Churches. In addition, we assist the Trustees of Grace Magazine in the production of the “Directory of Churches” and we have seconded Eric Cousins to the Strict Baptist Trust and Strict Baptist Pension Fund where he serves as Secretary to the Trustees. Additionally, Eric is a Trustee and the Treasurer of the Particular Baptist Fund. Whilst there is no formal link between the Corporation and the Particular Baptist Fund, the involvement of our Chief Executive in the Fund enables him to represent the interests of the Grace Baptist family of churches.
Turning to the financial aspects of the work, the Statement of Financial Activities reveals an operating surplus for the year of £51,497 and this was enhanced by a recovery in the value of the Corporation’s investments. We are pleased to say that this recovery reversed most of the losses we suffered in the previous year as a result of the turmoil in the financial markets.
Summarised financial information is given in our Annual Report (available from the office on request) and includes a Statement of Financial Activities, a Balance Sheet, and limited notes from the Corporation’s accounts together with certain details from the Common Investment Fund. The full accounts of the Corporation and the Common Investment Fund have been subject to audit and copies are available on request. We have also included in our Annual Report a summary of the transactions relating to the Trust Funds of which the Corporation is a Trustee. Separate accounts are maintained for each of the trusts and they have been subject to external scrutiny by Independent Examination, where appropriate. In addition, returns are made to the Charity Commission in respect of those trusts that are also registered charities.
A number of the trust funds we administer are very small indeed, with some having an annual income of only a few pounds, and we have therefore taken advantage of the provisions of section 75 of the Charities Act 1993 (as amended in 2006). Under this section we are permitted to convert the trust fund capital to income, and then spend that capital as though it were income, subject to the agreement of the Charity Commission thus enabling us to use the monies released to assist churches in need. Once it has been spent, the trust fund is then closed. We intend to continue with this process during 2010. If you are responsible for administering small trust funds and would like assistance with passing Section 75 Resolutions please contact Eric Cousins.
As always, the year ahead will bring many challenges to our family of churches, but we are here to help in those matters that are within the scope of our professional expertise. Please pray for us that we will be able to serve God well as we seek to serve the churches and please pray that we will be given wisdom and guidance as we seek to strengthen the Board and maintain the various ministries of the Corporation during the coming year.