I write as a clergy widow with 40 years experience and yet still maintaining a GSOH – just.

In 2014 our deanery was overtaken by an initiative funded by the Church Commissioners for £1m called ‘Transforming Wigan.’ There is much on the web about this. It was a time of change and uncertainty and much confusion.

In 2018, along with the other churches in the deanery, we lost our parish status to become part of a Hub. Things went rapidly downhill. People were unhappy with the way things were being handled and run. In our Hub, there is one PCC for 7 churches. There is one churchwarden – there were two but one resigned and no one else wants to take the role on. Decisions are made on our behalf – like them or not. The whole ethos of the hub has gone decidedly low-church with very little in the way of middle/high churchmanship. It’s rather as though we are being made part of a cult, becoming clones of each other. The beauty of the diversity of worship in the Church of England is disappearing.

The financial situation of our Hub and, indeed, the whole deanery is, apparently, dire in the extreme with massive debts. Legacies are being removed, giving schemes are failing. If the people are not happy, they will not give. Proved.

In 2019, due to the unrest, The Church Commissioners revisited the deanery. The unhappiness at the meeting was tangible. Tears were shed. Those for and against were listened to. The ‘againsts’ were in the majority. The Church Commissioners allowed the initiative to continue. Disappointed is not the word. Angry may just cover it.

The pandemic did not help. The online worship provided by our Hub was far removed from what we, as a church and parish were used to. We needed familiarity and stability in those uncertain times. We did not get it. Regular members of the congregation began to drift away to watch services from other places or, indeed, to attend worship at what they considered to be a ‘normal’ parish church.

As restrictions lifted, there was more confusion as to who was leading which service where and at what time and what type of service to have. We were subjected to trials of a couple of types of services – both were failures, unless you like singing Muppets of course!

Over the last few months, one of the ‘team’ has been appointed to us. He is self-supporting and still working, but he is of a good, solid tradition and has provided the stability which was much needed. and numbers are slowly rising. The people are responding to the traditional parish system as it was, not as how the transformers want us to be.

The story of our parish is echoed around the deanery. Last week, a visitor told me that none of the churches in Wigan were happy. I can believe this. Revolution is in the air.


6 Comments

Lee Kent · 30 March 2022 at 12:01 pm

This is what we have been saying REPEATEDLY in Lincoln Diocese. Just lumping parishes together, to make a financially [on paper] viable enterty DOES NOT WORK.
The parish church is part of our culture and the local community need it as one of the foundation stones of village/town life. This can be done in a variety of arrangements. The local community needs to pray and discuss options and then be prepared to take on the Diocese . Blessings to you all.

David · 10 April 2022 at 9:52 pm

They are trying this in Essex, they call the MMUs, our parish has refused, it’s the slippery slope to accept.

Emma Thompson · 11 April 2022 at 3:41 pm

Wigan is probably the most egregious example of parishes turned into hubs to date. https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/parish-reorganisation-and-closed-church-buildings/consultation-parish-reorganisation-85

One of our team wrote to me: “It is so awful I can hardly bear to read it. The Bishop’s response to representations is worth reading, https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2019-08/Bishop%27s%20response%20on%20Wigan.pdf, as is the Commissioners’ curt approval letter. Not only are the 30- something parishes reduced to 7, but it will be all one benefice with a team of 7 ministers. How on earth can people feel loved by such a structure?”

Emma Thompson · 11 April 2022 at 3:47 pm

See PQ148043 (in the ‘Research and Evidence’ section of this website under ‘Parliamentary Q&As’) on Wigan. The ‘Transforming Wigan’ project was awarded £900,000 of Strategic Development funding. The clergy widow writing above describes the results of this huge expenditure.

    Cynthia Taylor · 9 May 2022 at 9:51 am

    Many thanks for your comments. I have only just seen them. The situation does not improve.

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