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Church’s ‘scab-like’ mould problem putting worshipers off

·3-min read

The church of St Simon and St Jude in the village of Thurcroft, near Rotherham, is one of many in need of funds for vital repairs, without an answer for where the money will come from.

Conservative MP Andrew Selous, who as the second estates commissioner speaks for the Church of England in the House of Commons, has warned that across the country its parishes are only raising half the funds needed to meet the estimated £1 billion cost of repairs over the next five years.

Phil Owen, treasurer at St Simon and St Jude’s, says the parish church is facing costs of around £50,000 to deal with a worsening damp and mould problem, and to replace an ageing boiler.

The damaged plaster at St Simon and St Jude Church
The damaged plaster at St Simon and St Jude Church (Phil Owen/PA)

There are grants available, he said, but they are “few and far between”, and as the building deteriorates it becomes less attractive to attend, so numbers decline further, revenue drops and the problem only gets worse.

He told the PA news agency: “We try and fundraise to the best of our ability but in the current climate it’s very, very difficult.

“I’m not very confident at all that we will get funds in the short-term. It seems a problem that there is no financial means to provide for at this stage.

“It will take us a long, long time to raise anything like that. Our fundraising during lockdown was round about £2,000, previous to lockdown you’re only talking about £3,500, £4,000 per annum.”

He said donations are linked to “bums on seats”, but currently the church is only getting around £100 a week, and that is not helped by the mould problem which he describes as “like a scab” on the walls.

Mr Owen said if the Government or anyone else were to provide funding “we would welcome it with open arms”.

While weekly attendance is declining, he said for key occasions it can still be busy, and in some cases the church can even be standing-room only.

“People from the village will come to the church, but they don’t come to the church on a weekly basis.

“Were the church to disappear, the village would certainly miss it,” he said, adding it would be “a sad loss, because the church was built by the people of Thurcroft for Thurcroft”.

The St Simon and St Jude Church in the village of Thurcroft, near Rotherham
The St Simon and St Jude Church in the village of Thurcroft, near Rotherham (Tim Leach/PA)

Mr Owen added: “The biggest problem you have is people’s perception that the Church of England is very, very rich and sitting on billions of pounds.

“Well the Church of England is sitting on billions of pounds, but a lot of that is asset value.”

Roland Alden, church warden at the All Saints Church in the village of Richard’s Castle, in Shropshire, says while their building is in a good state of repair, investment is needed if it is to host more community events, which he said would put it on a more sustainable financial footing.

Mr Alden said as weekly attendance had dropped, the church has also cut back, no longer providing weekly services and instead becoming a “festival church”, focusing on the bigger events in the liturgical calendar and key ceremonies such as weddings and funerals, while trying to extend its offering to the community as a place for events.

But he said a lack of adequate toilet facilities limits the church’s capacity to be a host.

“We’ve done what we can do, and that is definitely working. We’ve shown local leadership, by making those changes,” he said, adding Government funding to “prime the pump” could help put churches such as his on a more sustainable footing by attracting people back.

He said grants often involve an element of match funding, and so there needs to be an alternative solution if enough funding cannot be found within the parish.

He said: “I think as a country and a society we need to maintain some of these wonderful buildings.”

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