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Stanley Crook.jpg
St Thomas church
Stanley Crook.jpg
St Thomas church
World News

County Durham parish faces closure after coronavirus proves to be 'final straw' on finances

by Kelly Valencia

A parish in County Durham could be facing its last five months as an active place of worship. 

Financial struggles at St Thomas church at Stanley Crook, together with a drop in attendance, have left the church facing an uncertain future. 

In a statement, church leaders said that during the pandemic income fell to "almost nothing " and currently, the church only has financial capacity to cover costs until January 2022.  

"The pandemic has had a huge effect on the finances of the parish and on the congregation. As with all churches and chapels, St Thomas' is entirely funded by the efforts of the congregation," the statement read. 

"The small sums raised from holding Weddings, Funerals and Baptisms has completely evaporated. Along with this several members of the congregation are no longer able to take an active part in the life of the parish, due to ill health."

During 2020, the total income of the church was £2,266, failing to meet the £4,962 needed to pay the running costs. 

Dwindling numbers in church membership and in church attendance are also contributing to the final decision. Church leaders explained that "on a good day" only nine people attend a service and therefore "having a huge building can no longer be justified".
 
"We understand that many people will be disappointed to lose the church building. It will break the hearts of the congregation to close the doors for the last time. However, a small congregation can no longer bear the burden of funding and maintaining a church that so few want to use," the statement continued. 

Speaking to Premier, the Archdeacon of Auckland, Venerable Rick Simpson, who oversees around 120 parishes in the south of the diocese, including St Thomas', said that if the closure of the church takes place, people will not be left without pastoral care. 

"If the parish of Stanley Crook stops having its own church building, the parish will be adopted by another local parish. So, there will always be someone, a priest, to whom they can relate - that will be there for their pastoral care." 

When asked whether the Diocese of Durham could intervene financially to avoid St Thomas' closure, Archdeacon Rick said the diocese "simply has no money at all to support parishes anywhere with those costs".
 
In the Church of England system, parishes fall under the umbrella of a Diocese and are expected to be self-governing and self-managing. Funding is available for repair work or renovations but not for local church costs.  

Church leaders are St Thomas' are hoping to hold "a huge Christmas service" to celebrate the church in Stanley Crook. 

The statement continued: "In Stanley, Sunniside and Billy Row there were eight churches and chapels. If St Thomas' closes there will be none! We will be looking at all options and closure will be the final option. Unfortunately, time is now running out for the Church on the hill."
 
An online fundraising campaign has also been set up. 

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