ESSEX-UK-L ArchivesArchiver > ESSEX-UK > 2003-07 > 1058730237
Subject: Re: Brightlingsea Church
Date: Sun, 20 Jul 2003 15:43:57 EDT
In a message dated 20/07/2003 01:00:50 GMT Daylight Time,
> Just had a reply to my query about this church sale, its the old United
> reformed Church in John Street. Anyone know it? Why is it for sale do you
> think? Not used any longer?
It's quite a common thing, especially amongst the nonconformist churches -
and has been for many years past. The cost of running a church building and
paying for clergy (stipends, pensions, accommodation, transport and telephones,
etc) falls upon each individual church and, therefore, on each individual church
As I have found during my term as a Circuit Steward in the Methodist Church,
congregations are smaller these days and the average age of the members has
risen. This means that more members are on fixed income as pensioners and less
are wage earners. This leads to a standard circle of decline:
The members cannot afford to perform a repair so they find a cheap way of
doing it. The repair patches over the problem but does not halt the
deterioration. Less pleasant premises (cold, draughty, undecorated) are less attractive to
prospective members so they go elsewhere. Members die (not as a a result of
the problem!) so the income becomes less and there is less money to spend on
repairs which, in any event, are greater now because the source of the problem
hasn't been tackled, so they patch the problem . . .
Ministers and clergy, quite rightly, expect a reasonable remuneration for the
work they do and they, like everyone else, are subject to the rise in the
cost of living. Consequently, a larger proportion of the weekly giving from the
congregation goes on paying for the priest, which means there is less to spend
on the fabric of the church building . .
Smaller, and ageing, congregations make the running of smaller churches,
especially if they are not supported by a large infrastructure, less financially
viable. At some stage someone has to bite the bullet and decide the only
realistic thing to do is to close the church and, if possible, merge the remaining
congregation with another nearby.
This is not only true of nonconformist churches, the financial state of the
Church of England is causing many churches to be closed but the buildings are
in many cases listed* so the church has to continue to maintain an old building
or to sell it off to someone who can afford to do so.
In the early 1900s many churches were sold off as factories - in Southend I
know of one that made shirts, another that made knitwear and yet another that
still makes seaside rock. These days, they tend to be sold off for conversion
into housing. If the building isn't listed and there is a bit of land attached
to it another option is to get outline planning permission for an apartment
block and sell the plot, buildings and all, as is currently the situation with
the Branksome Road Methodist Church in Southend.
* For the benefit of non-Brits, if a structure is of sufficient
architectural or historic interest then it goes onto a list of such structures maintained
by central government. It is also graded at Grade 1, 2, 3 in descending order
of historic interest. This means you can get a building described as a 'Grade
2 listed structure' which means it must be maintained by the owner to a
suitable state of repair. Although the authorities can dictate what you can do with
the building, even down to telling you which colour of paint you can use
(assuming they agree you can redecorate), very little (if any) financial support
is available to assist you to maintain the structure. Once on the list a
structure cannot be de-listed, but occasionally the list is recreated and it is
possible that the structure can then be omitted from the new list.