St Mary's Church: at a crossroads (part II)

©Geoff Wilkinson©Geoff Wilkinson

In the second of a series of articles on the future of St Mary's Church, Rev Dr Jack Dunn reports on a consultation the Parish of Wanstead launched at the end of June about the future of this iconic building.

A well-attended meeting took place at Wanstead Golf Club in early July to discuss the future of St Mary's Church, Redbridge's only Grade I listed building.

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) of the Parish of Wanstead (which also includes nearby Christ Church) is now consulting church members on the future of St Mary's as an 'open' Anglican church, on possible future uses for the building, on potential pastoral provision for worshippers at St Mary's and on potential service provision there throughout the year. One of the many questions the consultation raises is: can the Parish of Wanstead now afford, in terms of human and capital resources and impact on our Christian mission, to operate two churches in such close proximity?

The consultation was launched on 30 June and runs until 22 September. A decision about the future of the Grade I listed church – including whether to begin the process to close the church for regular (more than six services per year) Anglican worship – may be taken by the PCC at a meeting scheduled for 25 September. If the PCC does decide to trigger the closure, then this formal legal process would include a period of formal public consultation, including members of the wider community, over a much longer period. At the present time, the PCC is gathering information and views to help it discern if this process should be initiated.

A consultation paper has been drawn up by the Standing Committee of the parish, which sets out more fully the reasons why the parish is now considering this step, including managing the future costs of maintaining and improving all of the Parish of Wanstead's buildings, which include not just St Mary's and Christ Church but also two neighbouring parish halls and which potentially exceed £1 million.

The report states 'it is important to note that closure may not mean closing fully for some Anglican worship or spiritual deconsecration' and outlines options which might include six Anglican church services per year in the building and the ongoing provision of baptisms, weddings and funerals, in addition to community outreach initiatives and open days, although at this stage there can be no guarantees as to worship. The report also notes: 'given the building's Grade I listed status, it is highly unlikely that St Mary's could be demolished or turned into residential accommodation'. It also explores many of the potential partnerships for the building that the PCC has already researched, including a local trust or a local education provider taking on the ownership of St Mary's and building on its mission and outreach while maintaining some Anglican worship.

To view the consultation paper, visit wavidi.co/stmarysconsult


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