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Large church vicarages send wrong message to poor warns priest

by Ruth Sax

Grand vicarages are off-putting for working class Christians, according to a priest in the Church of England.

Failing to reach Christians from low-income backgrounds and in poorer areas is a "serious threat" to its future in less wealthy regions, claims the CofE.  

A report was debated at this week's General Synod about struggling to reach people on modest wages. 

Rev Canon Chris Tebbutt, rector of Canford Magna, Salisbury, said he had forged much better relationships with his community after giving up a seven-bedroom "manor house" to live in a new local development.

"Clergy housing is a hugely important factor for mission and evangelism," he said. "Inappropriate housing sends out totally the wrong message to the community." The vicarage is now occupied by an archdeacon, he added.

A fifth of the church's 12,500 parishes are estimated to be on housing estates with at least 500 social homes.

The report said: "Whilst the decline in membership of the Church of England has taken place across all social groups in the UK, the steepest decline has been in the poorest areas."

The church said that since 2017 it handed out over £36.5 million for projects to increase its presence in poor areas.


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