VILLAGERS have told the Church Commissioners that
they deserve to share the proceeds of the sale of their redundant
church - because their forebears built it.
St John the Evangelist in the remote Weardale
village of Rookhope, Co. Durham, was built in 1905 with donations
from its close-knit mining community.
St John's fell out of use in recent years. Since
2008, the church, a Grade II-listed building, has averaged just 1.8
baptisms, 0.2 weddings and 0.6 funerals each year. A £30,000 repair
bill and a falling electoral roll forced the church's closure in
A public consultation on its sale by the Church
Commissioners ended on Friday. They say that, were it to go
ahead, by law the money has to be divided between the diocese and
central funds to maintain other redundant churches.
John Shuttleworth, a Rookhope businessman and Durham
county councillor, said last week: "The point they are missing is
that this church was built with money raised in the village. It was
paid for by the people of Rookhope; so by right it belongs to
them, not the Church Commissioners.
"Over the years, people have done work for the church
for nothing, and given money to keep it running. We have all
given, and now they are taking it away. That doesn't seem a
Christian way to go.
"It would be nice of them [the Commissioners] to say,
as a gesture, here's £25,000: where do you want it to go? It should
be used to benefit the village and its people, for the community.
If they think that's unreasonable, then they don't have any
Christian values whatsoever."
A spokeswoman for the Church Commissioners said that
the closure and disposal of churches was governed by the Mission
and Pastoral Measure 2011, which has the same force as an Act of
Parliament. Under the Measure, two-thirds of a sale's net proceeds
goes to the diocese to sustain its mission and ministry. The
remaining one third goes either to the Churches Conservation Trust,
or to care for closed churches that have yet to find a new use.
A formal consultation process was under way, she
said, and the sale would not be completed until it was over.