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Rector angers villagers in hall row


THERE were scenes of unrest at the annual parochial church meeting of St Mary’s, Udimore, near Rye in East Sussex, which culminated in the Rector’s ordering the ejection from the church of a young man who was protesting at the right of the incumbent to appoint his own candidate as a churchwarden.
 
Trouble first started in the parish about three years ago over the siting of a new village hall. The Rector, the Revd Duncan Lloyd-James, and his supporters wanted it to be built in a certain place, and a planning application was made. But most of the villagers wanted it elsewhere. Feelings rose on both sides.

The trustees of the old hall, which is to be sold to raise building funds, are the Rector and the two churchwardens, only one of whom shares the Rector’s view.

A few months ago, the Udimore New Hall Committee arranged a village vote, under the independent scrutiny of the Rye District Council for Voluntary Services. The Rector was defeated by about 62 per cent to 38 per cent. But he announced that he would proceed with his intentions anyway.

At the election of churchwardens on 28 April, a third candidate had put up her name, and the church was crammed with villagers who intended to vote tactically to remove the Rector’s churchwarden ally. But it was then that the Rector said that he would appoint his own man as one churchwarden, and the election would be for one other only.

The Archdeacon of Lewes & Hastings, the Ven. Philip Jones, told the meeting that the Rector was acting within his rights under the Churchwardens Measure 2001.

At this, the other two candidates tried to state that they were standing down. But they and several other people who tried to speak were silenced by the Rector. The young man then tried to protest, quietly and politely, only to be threatened with removal from the church.

By then, he and most of the people, some tearful, were already leaving the church. Outside in the rain, several said that they would travel to church nearby in Rye in future. One elderly woman said that she would leave instructions that her funeral should not be taken by the present Rector. Asked to comment, Mr Lloyd-James said that any statement would come better from the Archdeacon.

Archdeacon Jones said: “Unfortunately, as the other two candidates had stood down, there could be no election, and another churchwarden will have to be found soon. I was very sorry about that, because there could have been an election. I hope that there will be an adjourned meeting and they will elect a warden, and I also hope that an agreement is reached as to the site of the church room.”

But he said: “Sadly, it doesn’t look as though there will be a resolution to the siting of the church room. The site preferred by the Rector and his churchwarden is adjacent to the church and is an appropriate site. There are a number of people living near the church who do not agree with that.” He said that he had suggested arbitration, but for now there was “a complete impasse”.

A parishioner and nominee for churchwarden’s office, Anne Owen, said: “I was flabbergasted at the way the Rector has snubbed the wishes of most parishioners, twice now, in this way. His angry behaviour in God’s house, simply to get his own way, was astonishing. Our church needs all the support it can get, and this was not the way to get it. And surely, this piece of church law is archaic and needs revising.”

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