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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Fury over West Cumbrian chapel profit claims

Claims that a Maryport chapel is being sold for profit have sparked an angry backlash from a town church leader.

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HITTING BACK: The Rev Nicola Reynolds outside the Methodist chapel on Maryport’s Ellenborough Old Road, with the leaflet that has sparked fury

The BNP circulated a leaflet stating that Methodist plans to sell off the chapel on Ellenborough Old Road were “another part of our culture and history being destroyed for profit”.

But the Methodists say it has been a painful decision to sell off the Ellenborough chapel because dwindling congregations can no longer afford the upkeep.

The church has also decided to put its Netherton chapel on the market.

It said the money will go towards a drop-in centre in Maryport’s Senhouse Street called Signpost, before the planned closure of the town’s Jobcentre in June.

The Rev Nicola Reynolds, superintendent minister of the Solway circuit, said: “The only people to benefit from the sale of the chapel will be the people of Maryport.

“Ellenborough Chapel has a very loyal congregation of just 14 worshippers who have to contribute a substantial amount of their income to just keep it running.

“Like many buildings that are considered part of the history and culture of the community, it is supported by a few people who are expected to keep it going by themselves at great cost to themselves.

“The people of Ellenborough can either keep a building that is in a very poor state of repair that will cost them thousands of pounds to repair and maintain, or they can have a service that will help them in times of growing need.”

She said the 14 worshippers, mostly pensioners, had made a courageous decision to sell the Ellenborough and Netherton chapels so they could continue with their mission.

To bring it up to standard. the most basic level of repair would cost about £100,000.

The drop-in centre, funded by the sale, will provide computer facilities and an access point for local services in the heart of the town.

BNP spokesman Clive Jefferson said that no offence had been intended by the leaflet circulated by Maryport town councillor Dawn Charlton.

He added: “I can see what they are saying but I think they are slightly over-reacting.”

He also said that profit would be involved in the process, even if it was made by the developers rather than the Methodists.

Mr Jefferson said Coun Charlton only raised the issue after people had approached her with their concerns.

He added: “We would like to fully support and back the Methodists in their project, and I’m glad the money is going to stay in the community. Our organisation might be able to raise funds for it.”

Angela Kendall, Labour town and Allerdale councillor for Netherhall, said she was dismayed by the leaflet, adding that it was church business and not a political issue.

The congregations from both chapels will come together in St Mark’s Church, Kirby Street.

The two chapels have both been sold subject to contract.

Mrs Reynolds said: “A lot of tears will be shed over the chapel by people who have worshipped there for a long time.”

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