Decision to sell church based on pragmatism: vicar

Parishioners of St Michael and All Angels Church in Clyde have agreed to start the process to...
Parishioners of St Michael and All Angels Church in Clyde have agreed to start the process to sell the church. Photos by Leith Huffadine.
St Mary Anglican Church in Omakau.
St Mary Anglican Church in Omakau.

A decision to proceed with the sale of St Michael and All Angels Church in Clyde, one of two Anglican churches in the Dunstan Parish for sale, was based on pragmatism, the Dunstan vicar says.

The Dunedin Anglican Diocese, which owns the building at 8 Matau St, has begun the process following a unanimous decision by parishioners to sell.

The other church for sale is St Mary, in Omakau.

The Rev Ross Falconer said the decision was made due to the cost of maintaining a church only a ''handful'' of parishioners attended.

''We have to be hugely pragmatic about it no matter how beautiful, ancient or loved the building.''

The whole diocese was downsizing, due to falling numbers of churchgoers, he said.

''The Church is not in the business of being a preservation society.''

St Michael, a Heritage New Zealand category 2 building built in 1877, would likely be put up for tender because it was too hard to put a value on a church, he said.

The Central Otago District Council website showed the 2013 capital value of the property was $350,000.

It had not been assessed for earthquake strengthening.

Diocese communications spokeswoman Emma Neas said the process it had to go through was complicated and had only just begun.

It had to contact families whose relatives' ashes were stored in the columbarium about the potential sale.

A columbarium is a place for respectful, usually public, storage of urns.

So far, only one family had been spoken to.

Consultation with the church community and wider community would be undertaken once they had been contacted.

She said there were several options for the building's future, but they could not be discussed yet.

However, there was a possibility it could remain in church ownership.

If sold, the diocese would ensure it went to a respectful owner.

A possible sale could go ahead any time from the next two to six months, she said.

There was no date set for deconsecration.

She was aware of concerns in the area's church-going community about the sale.

Dr Enny Manning, of Alexandra, said she believed Mr Falconer had manipulated elderly members of the congregation into agreeing to the sale.

She claimed he did so by telling them a bequest fund given to the church solely for its maintenance had been used by the parish to pay for other costs.

''We can't maintain St Michael on what we have or give. If we can't maintain it we have to sell so we had to agree.''

Dr Manning did not think the church should be sold.

She had not been able to find out how much the bequest fund had been worth, where it came from, or its wording.

Mr Falconer responded by saying her view on manipulation ''would be a perception''.

However, ''democracy was followed'' and the vote to ask the diocese to start the sale process was unanimous, he said.

He was aware there were people upset by the decision to sell and said it was a natural reaction.

''As a pastor and a vicar I have a lot of sympathy for those people.''

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