In these uncertain times, and with our Centre having been physically closed for more than three months now, it is natural for there to have been questions about the Centre’s financial health. Many of you will also be aware that the Centre has been receiving funds under the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (commonly known as furloughing), and may have questions about that. We hope to give you below some idea of the situation.
The first thing to say is that the Centre is not in any immediate financial danger. Sangha members, and many newcomers in our online activities, have been generous in their response to the need for funds, for which we are very grateful. The Centre’s income has however dropped heavily during lockdown, particularly with the cancellation of planned retreats, courses, MBSR and perhaps especially bodywork activities. Whilst many events have continued, and indeed thrived, online, we have decided it bestnot to charge for Buddhism or meditation courses online. For all these reasons, donations, especially regular ones (Standing Orders), have never been so important. Our Centre is a collective endeavour, brought into being not just through the time of all of you who contribute, in many ways, but also through your funding of it.
During the closure of the Centre premises the amount of work available for the Centre Team has been reduced, and we have therefore made use of the Government’s furloughing scheme. All members of the Centre Team, with the exceptions of Arthasiddhi and Vidyasakhi, have been furloughed at times during the lockdown. Decisions about who to furlough and for how long have been made on the basis of available work and with some rotation of staff so that the workload has not fallen too much on any individual. We would like to express our thanks to all the Centre Team for their understanding when furloughed and their hard work and flexibility when not!
The Government’s scheme is currently expected to continue until 31 October, and we expect to continue to make use of it until either the Centre fully reopens or the scheme closes. It is worth mentioning that HMRC have confirmed that, with certain very specific exceptions, it is acceptable for our furloughed staff members to be leading or supporting sangha activities, since this is not what they are employed to do. Also, in addition to grants under the furloughing scheme, we have received a grant of £10k from the City Council to assist small businesses during lockdown (the Centre being counted as a business through its provision of bodywork activities).
So when will the Centre re-open? Whilst Government guidance now allows places of worship to open, there are considerable restrictions, and the safe use of the space, as well as the provision of online engagement for certain activities, will require much planning and risk assessment. We, therefore, anticipate, providing that the Covid-19 risk continues to decrease, that we will be able to open the Centre in September.
It is clear, however, that when the Centre re-opens we will not be returning to “business as usual” as it was before the lockdown. There is much uncertainty about the ongoing impact of coronavirus, including its economic effects, and this affects us all individually as well as our Centre. There is a tremendous need in the world right now for the practices and teachings that we offer, and we want to reach out. Through online activities, we can reach more people, including people we might not otherwise reach, and we expect to be continuing with an online programme alongside face-to-face activities. Our Centre could really thrive, grow, and alleviate more suffering in the world if we are able to respond in this way in the time ahead.
Whilst this has been a time of great change it is also a time of opportunity, and one that we are excited by. An opportunity to reach out with the Dharma to more people who want to take it up. And we hope that this is something you too are excited by, as it is really only as a community that we will have the social and financial resources to make this possible in these times. Please do give if you can!
The Cambridge Buddhist Centre Council
Arthapriya, Arthasiddhi, Kamalamati, Samudraghosha, Sarvajit, Viryajyoti, Vidyasakhi