A PARISH church in a deprived area of Nuneaton, in the diocese of Coventry, is to close its doors next year, having failed to attract a new incumbent.
The church of St Mary and St John, Camp Hill, is situated on a large housing estate that is undergoing regeneration. The PCC of the church, which is under the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda with the episcopal oversight of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, had acknowledged in its parish profile the challenges that it was facing: both a decaying 1967 building and a dwindling and ageing congregation.
The first incumbent, the Revd Dennis Sneath, served his 61-year ministry at the church, from its foundation until 2013. The then assistant curate of the neighbouring Society church, St Mary’s Abbey, Nuneaton, the Revd Thomas Wintle, undertook an extended placement at St Mary and St John, until 2018, but latterly the church has struggled to celebrate the eucharist on all Sundays.
The advertisement for the post called for a priest who could “Lead the church into a vibrant new future, including some major renovation, refurbishment and possible re-building of parts of the church plant to enhance church growth and community development initiatives.”
The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, had acknowledged the scale of the problems, but had described the position as “a great opportunity here to revive the life of the Church and to restore something of the missionary energy with which St Mary’s and St John’s began when the estate was first built”.
The church took to Facebook this week to make the announcement, which read: “We are deeply sorry to announce that St Mary and St John, Camp Hill, will be closing its doors for the final time. This will likely be on Sunday, 31 January 2021, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas).
“This is due to the Nuneaton deanery being unable to afford to fund a vicar at Camp Hill. This, combined with unsuccessful attempts to find a vicar, has left us with no other option but to close.”
The Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s Representative for the diocese, the Revd Dexter Bracey, confirmed on Tuesday that the church would be closing.
The diocese made the following statement, noting that the parish had been without a vicar for some years. “Although the parish has been well served by local clergy, all attempts to recruit a new minister have been unsuccessful.
“A recent meeting of the Parochial Church Council considered the pastoral care of the small congregation. The council agreed that the congregation could be invited to worship at the nearby Abbey Church, where their former curate is now Vicar. With a heavy heart, they also agreed that the ongoing ministry of the church was financially unsustainable.
“The closure of any church building requires a formal process which includes a period of consultation with all interested parties. This formal process has not yet begun, but it is likely to start in the near future.”
A former community-development worker at Camp Hill, Sam Margrave, who is a lay member of the General Synod, and worships at St Mary’s Abbey, took to Twitter to express his disappointment that a priest could not be funded in what he described as the poorest parish in the deanery. “I find it upsetting because I’m a working-class lad. I wouldn’t be a Christian if the church [had] abandoned my area,” he said.
A fuller statement is expected from Nuneaton deanery.