St Michael’s in Ryde could close as it is ‘unable to meet running costs’

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St Michael’s church in Ryde to enter consultation period into its closure as it is “unable to meet running costs”, says deputy diocesan secretary. 

Residents and church users filled the hall at St Michael and All Angels to hear about potential closure of the church on Wednesday (July 18) at 6pm.

Many people and concerned groups asked questions to deputy diocesan secretary Jenny Hollingsworth after she gave a presentation concerning the church’s future.

Reverend Canon Graham Morris was present at the meeting which the Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight, Peter Sutton, opened by saying, “nothing has been decided”.

After secretary Hollingsworth had given a breakdown of the church’s finances and attendance figures, a man got up and said her statistical analysis was “disgusting” and left the hall. 

Church of St Michael and All Angels in Swanmore, Ryde – photo by Joe Burn

She understood the issue was close to the bone for many but described a “significant fall” in attendance and explained that the church “will be unable to to meet day to day running costs” if things continue the way they are.

Average weekly attendance has dropped since 2013 when it was 11.8 people per week. In 2015, church figures showed just 4.5 people attend the weekly services. 

The secretary explained that the church will now enter a consultation period and accept proposals for how to manage the church in the future.

Reverend Canon Graham Morris is moving to Cirencester - photo by Joe Burn
Reverend Canon Graham Morris is moving to Cirencester soon – photo by Joe Burn

“We are not in the business of closing churches, we are here to spread the gospel,” said secretary Hollingsworth. 

She added that it could be “at least two years” before they lock the doors.

After consultation, if the Church of England (CofE) can’t find a way to keep it open as a place of worship, they will try to find another Christian faith to take it on. After this, residential or monumental plans can be considered. 

Secretary Hollingsworth said that there are 60 CofE churches on the Island, four of those within two miles of St Michael’s.

Wellytots and the Ella Shepherd School of Dance that teaches 32 classes a week and educates some 200 children with a possible benefit of earning UCAS points were the most vocal throughout the meeting.

Archdeadcon Sutton addresses concerned residents – photo by Joe Burn

Miss Shepherd pointed out that she had built her career around the building and contributed to the church extensively, including paying for repairs and cleaning.

Many ideas were suggested at the meeting including getting more out of the business of renting the church hall, forming a working party to fill key roles the church could not afford to fill, and forming a youth church that would benefit from various grants.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Portsmouth said: “St Michael and All Angels Church, Ryde, currently hosts only one midweek service each week, which is attended by a small number of people, most of whom also attend Sunday services at All Saints, Ryde.

“The Parochial Church Council of St Michael’s Church has reluctantly decided to request its closure for Church of England worship.

“When a PCC requests that a church closes for public worship, the diocese starts a legal process of informal and formal consultation, surveys of the buildings and local discussions about the future of the church, before making a final decision on whether it should close or not.” 

If you’re affected by the possible closure of St Michael’s church please get in touch with the news desk on 01983 216 111 or email us at newsdesk@iwobserver.co.uk


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