Some of you may know that when we arrived here, over 4 years ago, we came to a massive church with a small and poor congregation. It is a listed building :`( – not, to my mind, particularly beautiful – but because it is listed then all sorts of people were interested in it. English Heritage, the Victorian Society, etc etc as well, of course, as the diocese, to which it belongs.
So we were saddled with its upkeep even before we got here. Over the years, our part-time fundraiser, Dave, has worked like a Trojan to raise the money for us to do necessary repairs: a tower that had been cracked by lightning, drains which were not working, a leaking roof, etc etc. He has filled in hundreds of forms, attended endless meetings, sent numerous emails and letters, and been willing to work much more than the one day a week he is paid for.
At every stage English Heritage was involved, and gave us funding which we had to match with money from our own fast-dwindling resources. When it came to heating the church, however, they refused point-blank to fork out any more money, and we were almost bankrupt. So we reached a brick wall.
After a lengthy process which included big meetings with English Heritage representatives, and with our facing financial ruin, we took the decision last year to move out of the church and into the hall.
The Seventh Day Adventists promptly said that they would be really interested in having the church and looking after it. They have a big congregation, and no building of their own. With more people, and more money, they will be in a much better position to make the building fit for purpose. We’ve worked closely with them from the start, and they too have been in regular touch with English Heritage.
Yesterday our fundraiser got a letter from English Heritage, from somebody there who had had no previous dealings with us. The letter said that, in view of the fact that we were selling the church, we had to repay all the money – £200,000.
Poor old Dave, our fundraiser, was really upset. He wrote to them in the strongest terms, and then promptly offered us his resignation, bless him, in case we thought he’d gone over the top. (Of course we didn’t accept it! We’re all in this together).
So Hub went to the diocesan secretary, who said that he had taken legal advice, and EH is wrong.
He’s now taken over responsibility for the building and for sorting out EH … :crazy:
… and Hub and I have our Nth discussion about the uselessness of being saddled with a stupid building that swallows money and energy when what God wants us to do is to be a loving community that offers support to those around. We do that anyway, to the best of our ability – but how much more effective we could have been, with energy and money released from repairs and builders into creating community.
Maybe NOW we are finally releasing the building, we can concentrate properly on what we ‘should’ be doing!
… and although we belong to the National Trust, neither of us feels inclined to join English Heritage … just at the moment… 😉