Derry minister urges flock to speculate with church cash to help repair flood damage
A Church of Ireland minister has taken an innovative approach to raising much-needed money for a flood-damaged church in Co Londonderry.
Canon Paul Hoey distributed £1,000 among the congregation of St Canice's Church in Eglinton following Sunday worship and he said he intends to share out a further £1,000 among the remainder of his parishioners.
The loan centres on the idea - based on the Parable of the Talents - that church members will use their God-given gifts to fund the repairs to St Canice's, which has been closed since August.
In the Gospel story, Jesus tells of a master who gave his servants talents to invest and two doubled their money while the third buried the cash.
"A lady initially came to me with the original proposal; I'd heard of it but I'd never done it before," Canon Hoey said.
"We took the initial seed, teased it out and made it our own, as it were. We're putting our faith in our parishioners and we're investing in their talent.
"Every one of us has been given at least one gift by God. We want people to realise that, to use their talent and to help their church." He added: "Some people were unable to attend church on Sunday but we're inviting every family in the parish to participate in the initiative. We've about 200 households and I think most of them are keen to do it."
Services have been held in Eglinton Primary School since the church and parish hall were damaged by flooding last year.
Canon Hoey said people he had spoken to were planning cake sales and other activities to generate funds to cover the damage which he said "will almost certainly take hundreds of thousands to put right". He added: "We're not just putting it back the way it was, we're taking the opportunity to make improvements."
Parishioners have been given six weeks to raise money for the parish restoration fund.
They will return their profits, or the original £10, at a special 'You've Got Talent' service of thanksgiving on June 24.
The minister admitted that he has no firm expectation as to how much will be raised.
"It's an unknown quantity but even before we started the official fundraiser last weekend, one lady raised a substantial £70 by having a curry night for her family and friends," he said.
"She's now intending to do another one for all the people in her street. If everyone did that we'd be flying... but all we're asking is for everyone to at least return the money they receive."
This isn't the first time Rev Hoey has been in the news. Last year he invited Elvis impersonator Andy Rogers to St Canice's.
He said: "I have long thought that a lot of the songs Elvis sang, both Gospel and non-Gospel songs, have a message for today's society. After seeing Andy perform at a concert I made a spur of the moment decision to ask him to come and perform for all of us in church.
"He agreed, and he packed the pews."