As if increasing fuel bills were not enough, parishioners in west London have been told that they will have to 'pay for their church in the same way as they pay their gas and electricity bills'.

With the prospect of central subsidies from the Church Commissioners drying up imminently, the Rev John Chater, Vicar of St Marylebone Church, has warned his congregation that they will have to contribute more to Sunday collections if the church is to survive.

He said he was keen to get away from the 'Oh God the collection plate's coming round - what have I got in my pocket?' school of church-going. Regular worshippers will be expected to pay pounds 6.30 a week.

Mr Chater's predecessor, Christopher Hamel-Cooke, transformed the crypt of the Grade One Regency church into a healing and counselling centre which employs 60 counsellors and is self-financing. He also raised pounds 2.2m to restore the church.

Mr Chater is scathing about the Church Commissioners' recent financial dealings which have caused their assets to shrink by pounds 800m.

'But people have to realise that if they want a good, professional ministry, a nice choir and a well-run church, the money's got to come from somewhere.'

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