Call for the community to support church

Rev Neil Gardner is calling for the community to support St Augustine's Church, which is struggling financially.
Rev Neil Gardner is calling for the community to support St Augustine's Church, which is struggling financially.
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A Wisbech minister is calling on the community to support his church or risk losing it in the future.

Rev Neil Gardner, priest at St Augustine’s Church, said the financial situation at the church is becoming a real issue and they are “haemorrhaging” about £10,000 a year.

As a parish church, it relies on the community to keep going and an ever-shrinking congregation has been shouldering the financial burden of the building.

The Diocese of Ely does give a grant, but this only covers about half of the cost of a minister. St Augustine’s, which runs a variety of groups including a day centre for the elderly and a karate group, has other costs to cover. The heating bill is particularly crippling; from November to February, the heating costs were £6,000.

Mr Gardner said: “The church is a parish church and therefore it exists for the whole community, not just for the small group of people who turn up on Sunday.

“We have had 150 years of weddings, baptisms and funerals. The whole community expects us to be there when they need it, but at the moment the wider community doesn’t pay anything towards our upkeep.

“We would love whatever contribution you can make, whether financial or helping out with skills. If people want us to be there, the whole community is going to need to start being involved.”

Mr Gardner believes that if the church is not better supported, it could lose a parish priest. In the “long long term” he thinks it could even go the same way as Guyhirn and Coldham churches and close.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Ely said: “The diocese is not in the business of closing churches. We want to see parishes flourishing and thriving.

“However in some locations we recognise that today it is a challenge – both for clergy, and for congregations who have to increasingly meet the cost of ministry. There continues to be support available from the wider diocese where needed.”

Mr Gardner said St Augustine’s situation is not unique and added: “I would say to everyone: support your parish churches. We are all struggling and people have to be made aware.”