Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Would you destroy this church?

                  Not a bad looking church, some remedial work needed

Photo: The Laitytude Blog

Bishop Burns of Menevia is at the centre of yet another controversy (see links at end of post).

He wishes to sell off an old church in the seaside town of Aberystwyth and build a sparkly new one.

So what? Good for Bishop Burns you might say, others....well.

You see, the new church will be built (if the good Bishop has his way) at a place called Penparcau and that, my dear friends is further than you can throw a druid, from the town centre. Quite a bit further, some 1.5 miles further in fact.

So what, one might ask, will happen to the old and the infirm, the elderly and the lame?

The Bishop says they can get a bus as he will organise services around the bus timetables but, as anyone with any knowledge of Wales knows only too well, rural buses on a Sunday are as rare as an EF Mass - and that means, pretty rare!

Again, Bishop Burns flags up the Health and Safety aspect of continuing to use the old church, plus the fact that it will cost £2.6 million to do it up.

Really? that past me again my Lord.......2.6 million pounds? my builder Mike would do the job for a couple of thousand and, (I state this with no knowledge of the building other than reports received from those who should know and from observing the pics plus a little knowledge of renovation costs) a larger building company would, I am pretty certain, do a complete renovation for circa 200k.

What is it? A new roof, yes, a bit of structural reinforcing? yes, re-wiring and a new heating system? OK and then a coat of paint - job done!

Of course, there is the issue of the site of the present church, St Winefride's, being a high value bit of real estate....but don't let's go there....yet.

An overriding sadness regarding this issue is that there seems to be a split between those who want to stay and those who wish to go. I have no knowledge of how many there are in either faction; in a way, it doesn't matter.
The main issue is, to ensure that the old and the infirm etc., are still able to attend Sunday Mass as normal.

But the Bishop is reported by the BBC as stating that those who are for the move should get the others to pack it in. That would seem to be more than a tad divisive.

Here is how the Beeb reported on the matter - it's transcript so please bear with the format:

In a pastoral message, Bishop Burns, who is based in Swansea, said the church was not fit for purpose and could be closed on health and safety grounds.
Plans are to demolish St Winefride's and sell the land for housing.

"Tell the protesters politely to back off. Speak to them, or write to them”
 Quoted Bishop Thomas Burns.
In a message to parishioners Bishop Burns said a small number of objectors had already contributed to the project's heavy costs of £100,000.

He said: "My dear people, the above tactics that the protesters have used, including petitions and submissions to their local councillors, have brought us to a serious moment.
"Throughout these last few years, the structure of St Winefride's church has continued to weaken. It is in such a bad state that our insurers can no longer provide suitable cover for the deteriorating walls and roof if they should collapse.
"I am increasingly concerned about health and safety matters. Masonry and other bits and pieces have been coming down. I may soon have to make a decision about closing the church, to prevent risks to life and limb."
The church site in Queen's Road, which includes a dilapidated parish hall and presbytery, would cost the diocese more than £2.6m renovate, added the bishop.

But objectors claimed they had been shown no evidence the church was structurally unsound.
Appealing to his parishioners, Bishop Burns added: "Tell the protesters politely to back off. Speak to them, or write to them.
"You know who they are, and you also know that they do not represent your parish. They have contributed to the heavy costs that have already been incurred, amounting to over £100,000.
"Please tell them that enough is enough. They risk leaving Aberystwyth with no Catholic parish church at all."

Objectors said moving the church out of the town centre to Penparcau would make it difficult for older members of the congregation to attend services.
But the bishop said church services would be tailored to bus schedules, where possible.
An objector to plans for St Winefride's, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "The old church (St Winefride's), which has been there since the 1870s, is planned to be demolished because they say it's not fit for purpose. Some parishioners go along with this and others do not.
"We don't want the church to move out of the town centre."
The objector also questioned whether the church was structurally unsound although agreed it was in need of repair.

I don't think that saying "Tell them to politely back off, is a very good thing to say in the circumstances.

And to follow it through with a threat to the effect that the whole issue might end in no parish church whatsoever for Aberystwyth is just plain nonsense.

Aberystwyth is a fine seaside town with a resident population of c. 13,500 souls, a number that dramatically swells with the University students that live in the town, to around 21,500.

If you estimate the Catholic population (based very roughly on the information available online) as being a 5% average for England and Wales, that leaves Aberystwyth with some 1075 Catholics, not a bad sized parish for a Welsh rural town.

So, to talk of leaving them stranded without a church.....well, what do you think?

And, as far as arranging Mass times around the bus schedules I leave you with an extract from an online guide to the town:

Buses in Aberystwyth are a shambles: local operators change routes and times every few months with little or no notice. Even basic passenger information is lacking at bus stops. Taxi, walking or private car is usually less troublesome.

So, the best of British with that one, Bishop.

Links of interest:

* Traditionalists linked to paedophilia HERE
* British Government fails to provide for the troops HERE


  1. Yesterday a couple of us went to see medieval wall paintings discovered in the late 19th century at an Anglo Saxon/Norman church in a West Sussex village.
    The remains of the paintings have been lovingly preserved by members of the Anglican congregation over the years since.
    As we sat in the tiny church marvelling at Christ in Majesty and St. Michael weighing souls we both came to the same sad conclusion: we were thankful the church was in Anglican, not Catholic, hands.
    In the hands of some Catholic hierarchy there seems little that they do not wish to wreck.

  2. enjoyed worshipping there in the early 60's when the Carmelites were in charge.

    I suspect the figure of millions to renovate is more accurate than thousands.

    Also maybe Bishop Burns needs to realise that he is not in the Forces now, and commands from on high are not obeyed with military discipline!

  3. Not my call; from 5,000 miles away I shouldn't even be expressing an opinion, but when did reality ever silence a Texan?

    If St. Winifride's really is in a dangerous state and if the structure is not especially historical, then maybe -- MAYBE - a new building is the right choice. However, the new building should be in the same place and should not look like a Wal-Mart or a post office. In Texas new churches are almost always predicated on the concepts of Cheap, Quick, and Ugly. As Genty said, the Spirit of Vatican II bishops often suffer a deplorable lack of taste in liturgy, music, and architecture, and fail to respect the spiritual needs of the Catholic faithful.

  4. Around the time of the 1918 War HMG built several churches in the South of Scotland and gifted them to three denominations, including Catholic. The Catholic ones were of a cheaper variety - wholly in common brick, whilst the others included the local sandstone in their construction.

    I became involved in one of the parishes, though not living there, the estimated Catholic population 215, but incomers were not included. The church of solid brick wall construction, was of neo-byzantine design and in a somewhat depressing state. Also on the site was a post-war bungalow as the presbytery. At no great expense the fabric of the church was improved.

    The Bishop decided the parish was not viable and closed it down, selling first the presbytery and then the church. The parishioners were to attend the local Protestant church at which the priest from an adjacent parish would Celebrate Mass. The Protestant pastor was ex Catholic and the Catholic priest ex Presbyterian.

    The funds accruing from the sale were expended on the purchase and renovation of a Free Church chapel in another town. A beautiful job, except that there was no altar - only a series of tables at which the congregation sat around whilst the ex Presbyterian Priest confected and distributed the Sacrament!

    May I draw you attention to the document issued by The E&W Bishops' Conference, dated March 2001 - that Catholics, in isolated situations [as it were] can fulfil their Sunday and Holyday Duties by attendance at CofE or Non-Conformist places of worship.

  5. The Good Lord is in charge, full stop, period.
    But he does rather tend to give people in the church what they want.
    You plan for expansion, vocations, a catholic presence everywhere, schools, churches in town centres
    Like they did
    And the lord turned the pennies of the poor into a catholic presence again in Our lady's dowery.
    But if you PLAN for decline and sell off the family silver .....