South East Wales

Archbishop offers Rhondda church protesters talks

The Archbishop of Wales said he will talk to parishioners who are fighting the closure of a Rhondda church, providing they end their sit-in.

The group began a sit-in at All Saints in Maerdy following what was due to be the final service eight days ago.

But Dr Barry Morgan pointed out the final decision to close the building - which needs £400,000 in repairs - was taken by the parochial church council.

He also questioned whether the money could be afforded.

"The local parochial church council voted to close that particular church, and in fact some of the people who are now protesting didn't vote against the closure when they had the chance to do so," he said.

"That's what's so ironic about it really.

"I didn't go in there and say that I was going to close this church building... it was they who petitioned me.

"I have no authority to close a church unless they ask me to, so I've only done what they asked me to do.

Raising money

"If you get a letter saying by eight votes to zero we want this church to close, if I were to say I am going to overrule that I'd be accused of being a tyrant."

The campaigners say they will not leave until they are given a chance to raise the money needed for essential repairs.

And they have the backing of Rhondda MP Chris Bryant.

He said: "The first thing I'm going to do is try and speak to the Archbishop because I think he needs to understand the strength of feelings here.

"I'd like to be able to secure more time for people to put together a plan."

Dr Morgan told BBC Wales talks are possible.

He added: "I am more than willing to talk to them and I've made that absolutely clear, but they have to leave the church building and they have to resume their payment of the building's insurance.

"I am more than willing to see what the possibilities are. We've still got 22 churches in the Rhondda, we've still got 10 clergy. This building probably needs £500,000 spent on it.

"The question is, is that too great a burden on this community?

"They've had a chance over the last 10 or 15 years to do it and they've done nothing."

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

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