THE future of Stretton-on-Fosse’s historic St Peter’s Church is in the spotlight following warnings from the parochial church council that it is likely to run out of money within 18 months.
The challenging financial situation has prompted Stretton Parochial Church Council (PCC) to take a proactive approach, asking villagers about what they would like to see happen to the building.
In a letter to residents, the council is suggesting three options for the church, which dates back more than 1,000 years.
The first would see it close and become the direct responsibility of the Coventry Diocese, an outcome the council warns may see it sit disused and eventually sold for housing.
Its second option would see St Peter’s become what is called a festival church, opening for six services a year, plus baptisms, weddings and funerals, with the Stretton Parochial Church Council (PCC) needing to raise money for maintenance, running costs and hiring a priest.
The final route would see the PCC buy the church itself from the Church of England, though this would prove complex and expensive.
The letter details how the average number of people attending Sunday services has dwindled to six, though the community continues to support events like Harvest Festival, Remembrance Sunday and Christmas services in good numbers.
The church’s main expense is the paying for its clergy and their housing, with the remainder mostly going on insurance.
The letter reads: “Financially we are likely to run out of money in the next 6 to 18 months. The P.C.C. would prefer to take a proactive position rather than waiting until we are in debt and have few options left.”
It adds: “The P.C.C. would like to see the church building remain open, both for church services and other community uses. We envisage it operating as a local resource for the benefit of our whole community in religious and other applications.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Coventry added: “Over the years, villages in Warwickshire have witnessed the closure of many shops, schools and post offices. Nevertheless, the Church of England continues to aim for a Christian presence in every community.
“Our ancient church buildings are much loved by villagers and are an important part of our national heritage. Any decision to close a church is never taken lightly, and it always follows a formal legal process which involves consultation with all the required interested parties. No formal process has begun at Stretton-on-Fosse.
“We do, however, commend the Parochial Church Council for their proactive informal approach in seeking the views of local residents. We hope that this will lead to a fruitful discussion about the future of their church.”
The letter to villagers also highlighted how St Peter’s works as part of a group including, churches in Ilmington, Preston-on-Stour and Tredington to help meet the financial challenges.