There may have to be cuts to services at Berkhamsted’s 13th century parish church unless it can reverse a pattern of falling donations.
Regular annual contributions to Berkhamsted High Street’s St Peter’s Church have fallen from £119,000 in 2010 to £104,000 in 2012.
Congregations at Sunday services have grown from 190 to more than 220 in that time – but collection plate takings currently total less than £100 a month.
Parish treasurer Richard Hackworth said: “We spend more than we get and we are eating up the reserves.”
Guaranteed contributions to the church total £8,500 a month – but the cost of upkeep is £10,000 a month.
‘Unplanned income’ from the collection plate and elsewhere is not making up the £1,500 shortfall needed to maintain the church and nearby Court House.
And Mr Hackworth warned costs will next year rise to £11,000 a month.
A recent parish newsletter said: “St Peter’s does not receive state support and nor does it have large reserves to fall back on.
“We are making savings where we can but we need your help to make sure St Peter’s is here to stay.”
Charity the Friends of St Peter’s was launched earlier this year to raise money for maintaining the fabric of the church and its land.
Mr Hackworth said: “Medieval buildings are not cheap to run. We are by no means the only church in this position.
“Some churches have to choose between heating and mending something. That’s quite a tough call.”
Mr Hackworth said that problems at St Peter’s could begin within the next 12 months unless its income can be ‘materially increased’.
The church encourages people to donate towards its upkeep through direct debit rather than the collection plate. This allows it to claim gift aid from the government.
Instructions on how to do this can be found at www.stpetersberkhamsted.org.uk
Mr Hackworth puts the fall in donations to the church down to the age of its congregation. He said: “As new people join the church, some of the more senior figures leave us for one reason or another and that income dries up.
“I am sure the recession is a component in it, but I could not possibly quantify that.
“Younger people have children and mortgages in a high-expense time of their lives.
“Expenses are lower for people who are retired and they tend to have a more long-established connection with the church.”