Move to close St Michael’s Church

Honiton’s former parish church is little-used and in need of repairs costing tens of thousands of pounds, public meeting hears.

Can the Church of England continue to run two churches in Honiton? That is a question that has been occupying the minds of Parochial Church Council members, who last week set in motion a process that could see the town’s original parish church, St Michael’s, closed.

At an informal public meeting, chaired by the recently-appointed Archdeacon of Exeter, Reverend Christopher Futcher, parishioners were given the opportunity to have their say over the controversial proposal.

Reverend Sue Roberts, the Team Rector of Honiton Mission Community, made an opening statement to a packed Mackarness Hall, pointing out the church council had wanted someone to look at all the town’s church-owned buildings when she was appointed in 2006.

With St Paul’s Church, St Michael’s Church and St Michael’s Lodge, there was “a considerable amount of fabric to maintain and manage”.

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Since then, she said, the church had taken back the running of the Mackarness Hall from East Devon District Council and it was running at a small profit - greater than expected.

St Michael’s Lodge had been let.

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Up until recent times, Allhallows Trust paid for St Michael’s insurance and for the upkeep of the fabric of the building.

However, the Trust’s remit had been adjusted and it now only pays for the insurance.

Miss Roberts said “tens of thousands of pounds are needed for a building that is little used”.

Works totalling �36,000 were identified as needing to be carried out seven years ago, but the only work undertaken was to ensure the building was kept watertight.

The cost of the work, �12,000, was paid for by the Trust.

However, it was revealed that the former St Michael’s Management Committee had �21,000 in the bank when it was disbanded.

Miss Roberts said: “St Paul’s is in the heart of the town and is the focus of church activities.”

She said the church was valued by a host of community groups and was used for civic occasions and musical events.

Over three Sunday services, St Paul’s, which can seat 240, attracts an average of 105 worshippers, while a Thursday morning service at St Michael’s attracts an average of 21 worshippers, including two priests and an organist, the meeting heard.

St Michael’s was closed for worship for six months over the winter “because of the cold”.

Miss Roberts, who, with church council members, spent a long period of time trying to find alternative uses for St Michael’s, admitted: “We ran out of time and energy, with parishes to run and pastoral duties.”

Mr Futcher assured those present any future closure of St Michael’s would not affect St Michael’s Churchyard.

No minutes of the meeting are to be prepared and Mr Futcher said he hoped people would “go away and reflect”.

l If you want to have your say over the future of St Michael’s Church, write to Eve Van der Steen, Secretary, Church Building Strategy Committee, The Old Deanery, Exeter EX1 1HS.

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