Sit-in at Maerdy, Rhondda church over closure

Parishioners at a church in Rhondda are staging a sit-in in protest at its closure.

The final service was held at All Saints in Maerdy on Sunday.

Protesters plan to stay for for three days and nights to try to persuade the authorities to grant a year's grace.

The Church in Wales said the final decision to close the building - which needed £400,000 in repairs - was taken by the parochial church council with no votes against.

Rhondda Cynon Taf councillor Gerwyn Evans, an All Saints parishioner who is taking part in the protest, said he thought the building was "too good to lose".

The protesters had a rota for about half a dozen people to be at the church day and night to hold prayer vigils, he said.

'Not the only option'

They would also ring the church bell every hour until 2100 BST each evening to show that the community wanted to keep the church, said Mr Evans.

"We feel that we haven't had the ability to put our views across. There's a wide group of people in Maerdy who say they want the church.

"We believe it has still got a future in Maerdy. The church was full this morning.

"I just feel that closure was not the only option. I think they should have explored every avenue to keep the church open and I don't think they have."

A public meeting last week in support of keeping the church open attracted up to 100 people.

A Church in Wales spokesman said: "It is always very hard when a church closes.

"All Saints has had a long history of building problems and now, faced with repair work estimated to cost at least £400,000, has reached the end of its life.

"Closure had been discussed by members over the years and as no alternative had been found the final decision was taken by the parochial church council with no-one voting against it.

"The closure of a building, however, is not the end of the church - ministry will continue and we hope the community will support members of All Saints as they move into the community hall and begin a new chapter in their life."

Barbara Daniel, people's warden of the benefice of Rhondda Fach Isaf, said the congregation was not consulted about moving services to the community centre.

'Matter of practicality'

She said: "I know the community centre is a fine building and everything, but it's not a church.

"We don't mind going in to the community centre if they will allow us to do work on the church.

"It's such a beautiful church. It's a real shame it has come to this."

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has previously said the closure has been long-discussed and no alternative has been found.

He said: "It wasn't a decision that was taken lightly - it had been discussed many times over the years by the congregation but no alternative to closure was found in time.

"it is simply a matter of practicality and pooling our resources together to ensure that a worshipping community can continue in Maerdy.

"I think, therefore, it was the right decision to make."

The Church in Wales said the building, which opened in 1885, would be put up for sale once the closure was complete.

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