West Cumbria churches will not face widespread closure, says bishop
Last updated at 13:00, Friday, 27 September 2013
The Bishop of Carlisle has insisted that West Cumbria will not see a widespread closure of churches.
The Right Rev James Newcome was speaking this week at a packed public meeting of the Solway Deanery in St Mary’s Church, Maryport.
He outlined progress on the Diocese of Carlisle’s vision as the Church of England fights to reverse what he called 150 years of decline.
The diocese has come under fire recently because three prominent churches in West Cumbria face an uncertain future because of falling congregations and financial difficulties.
Maryport’s harbourside Christ Church has been closed because of structural damage and it is not known if it will reopen again as a church.
St John’s Church in Workington town centre is in urgent need of £500,000-worth of repairs.
And initial talks have started for Cockermouth’s under-threat All Saints Church to be taken over by a new Christian group.
Bishop Newcome has previously recommended that the evangelical King’s Church group, which meets at Cockermouth School, should take on the church and All Saints’ existing congregation could transfer to Christ Church.
At the meeting, Bishop Newcome said that some churches might close and their congregations amalgamate, but most would not.
He said: “The vast majority of churches we would envisage continuing as they are.
“The programme is not for widespread closure of church buildings.
“There will be some congregations that continue to meet in church buildings but there will be some that might well meet in other venues or people’s homes.
“We want a serious Christian presence in every place no matter how small.
“Early Christians were quite happy to meet in houses. Why not us?”
He stressed that there was no quick fix to the challenges posed by increasingly elderly congregations, falling church attendance, and a decline in the number of stipendiary clergy.
The Church’s response to the crisis will include working more closely with other denominations, particularly the Methodists and the United Reformed Church, and more evangelical outreach work in the community.
A leaflet circulated at the meeting outlined the vision and strategy of the diocese until 2020.
It said that while church buildings were important, there were too many in Cumbria.
Under the proposals, each congregation would need its own strategy for dealing with maintaining the fabric of the buildings and for meeting utility costs.
First published at 12:58, Friday, 27 September 2013
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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I'd like to thank Bishop Newcome for giving a little hope to a number of churches in West Cumbria being bounced into premature closure. None of us can predict the future of the Church of England, patterns of worship or population movements. Once a church is shut or demolished there is no going back. We only look after churches for future attenders. Past worshippers built and paid for these beautiful buildings. What right have we to shut them after a few
months' "debate" ? How many times has a service or a quiet sit down in a church helped to put things in perspective ? Even graveyards are havens for native flora and fauna. It really is awful to be told that some distant powers have decided to shut your church, quite quickly, when it has been the centre of your life and community for decades.
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