FINANCIAL difficulties are expected to lead a Worthing church to close and have its congregation merged with another.
On Sunday (April 10), the rural dean, Father Colin Kassell, announced Holy Trinity Church, in Shelley Road, was to close “in due season”, with the congregation to merge with Christ Church, in Grafton Road.
David Clark, church warden at Holy Trinity, told the Herald: “The vision of the diocese is to bring together the town centre. To do this, Christ Church must first modernise its services, and when that is achieved, a priest will be appointed to bring the two congregations together.
“When this has all be completed, Holy Trinity church will be closed – but this will be a lengthy process, the plans for which need discussing, which I cannot see happening for a while.”
David said the need to close Holy Trinity was due to the church’s financial situation. It is currently running at a loss, due to the decline in congregation numbers and the amount of money which has to be paid by all churches to the diocese.
The former vicar of both Holy Trinity and Christ Church, which are one parish, The Venerable Lionel Whatley, has already left for a new position.
“The reason services will move to Christ Church is because it has a graveyard which means it would be impossible to close it – it would be necessary to contact descendants of the dead – and because the building is of much more architectural interest than Holy Trinity.
“Obviously, the older members of Holy Trinity are quite upset because they value their church very much, some, like my wife, have been involved for a great many years,” David added.
The Archdeacon of Chichester, Douglas McKittrick, said: “The current situation for Holy Trinity and Christ Church is ongoing. In this latest phase of vacancy, the Parochial Church Council is being encouraged to consider the options available in terms of a central place of worship.
“This is a challenging time, but those working towards a greater community involvement in the church realise the huge potential this has of raising many opportunities for mission in the developing town of Worthing. It is a very positive step forwards.”
n St Botolph’s Church in Heene is also facing an uncertain future.
Father Peter Roberts described the financial situation as a “sword hanging over our heads”.
He said: “Three years ago we were told there was £1m of work needed on the building – we’d never raise such a sum. We’ve talked the situation through with the diocese and, in our opinion, the church ought to close, but it is a long process.”
Fr Roberts said when the church does close, the parish of Heene will have to be divided up and shared among other adjoining parishes.