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Priest challenges apathy towards church repairs

05 October 2012

A parish Priest, the Revd Ann Chapman, plans to ask her congregation: "Why bother?", after a meeting called to discuss £200,000 of repairs and refurbishment to her church went almost unattended.

Ms Chapman, Priest-in-Charge, was in despair at the apparent lack of interest in the fate of 150-year-old, Grade II listed St Margaret's, Hawes (above), in Wensleydale.

Now she plans to send out a questionnaire asking residents how they might feel if the church closed, and to call another meeting to ask Hawes the question: is there any point in continuing?

The meeting last month was to inform people about plans to repair a leaking roof and walls, and to provide modern facilities, including a new kitchen and disabled lavatory. "We handed out more than 600 flyers round Hawes, inviting people to come along and find out what our project was all about," she said.

"We did learn that there was another event on at the same time that may have drawn people away, but the lack of support has not left us with much hope. It's a bit scary to have to raise £200,000."

As a result, the PCC will send out questionnaires to people in Hawes, asking how they would feel if the church was not there in five years' time. "Then we will hold a public meeting in mid-October to pull together the results, and will take it from there," Ms Chapman said. "The question is: if there is no interest, then what are we doing it for?

"People tell me they want to get married here, or have a christening or funeral, but it's about more than that. There need to be people to use it, worship in it, and maintain it, for it to survive. If we do not carry out this work, the building will become dangerous."

But the leader of the local authority, Richmondshire District Council, John Blackie, spoke up for the people of Hawes. "I think it may just need a bit more time to embed it- self in people's minds," he said. "This community is great at fund-raising, but sometimes they are slow to start. Often it is a question of raising awareness of the project and then . . . the support will follow."

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