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Lack of numbers threatens church


A 150-YEAR-OLD Manchester church is set to close due to the absence of enough worshippers.

Located in Cheetham Hill, St John The Evangelist is currently under threat of being closed as church bosses contemplate their decision.

Opened in 1871, the large church can house up to 300 people, but its 22 pews rarely get more than 20 or 30 visitors, the majority being from the African-Caribbean community.

A Manchester Diocese spokesperson said any potential closure would be because “there are not enough people who regularly attend church services.”

While a final decision has yet to be made on the future of the ministry, increasing utility bills and a shrinking congregation suggest it is unsustainable. The first phase of the on-going consultation between church bosses, the congregation and local community took place last Wednesday (September 18). If closure is approved, other church denominations or community groups will be given the opportunity to bid for the venue.

The Grade II-listed building on Waterloo Road is more than a place of worship, as it also functions as a venue for the local community. St John’s provides hot meals for the homeless and is also used by local charities for outreach work. The Anglican Church is also used by the Eritrean Orthodox Church and runs a soup kitchen every Wednesday for the destitute.

Local resident and committed Anglican, Alma Weekes, is one of the church’s loyal attendees. The 78-year-old Bajan has been part of the church that is decorated with eye-catching mosaics of angels and classical stained glass windows for 41 years. All of Weekes’ children and grandchildren have been christened at the church.

She said: “I don’t want to talk too much about whether we will close or not because no final decision has been made. But this church has gone through good and bad before and we try to keep it together.”

The Voice contacted St John’s priest, Reverend Josie Partridge, who declined to comment.

Marlene Francis, a former resident in Cheetham Hill, said the church holds a special place in the community.

The 25-year-old said: “When I was a kid, we [Francis and her family] would go to there [St John’s], but before I left Manchester two years ago you could see the numbers were dropping.

The majority of congregation is black and it is a positive place for the community to gather as well as pray.”

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