The 19 churches across Wigan which could soon disappear amid controversial closure plans

Several churches across Wigan could close as bosses say they can't afford to keep them.
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As many as 19 could be closed due to rising costs, it has been revealed.

The plan put forward by the Diocese of Liverpool, which oversees churches in Wigan, has already outlined four churches that will be released with another 15 vulnerable to closure.

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It costs £1m per year to maintain church buildings in the borough and the diocese explained they have to "face the reality that they cannot afford to invest in them all”.

St David's Church in HaighSt David's Church in Haigh
St David's Church in Haigh

St Anne’s in Beech Hill; St Catharine’s in Scholes; St John the Baptist in New Springs and The Good Shepherd in Bamfurlong have all been confirmed as the churches that should be “released.”

Under protocol from the Church of England, when a church is released the land and building may be sold or converted into a building providing an alternate use.

The diocese wanted to highlight that this does not mean the closure of the local worshipping community in that area.

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Church Wigan will still provide congregations that will play an active role in worship and serving their neighbourhoods. For locals, this has been a huge shock, with councillors expressing their disappointment with the decision which threatens the borough’s history and community.

Many churches in the region play key roles in the surrounding area and many have acted as food pantries and warm banks during the cost-of-living crisis and pandemic.

Coun Laura Flynn, lead member for Youth Opportunities at Wigan Council, said: “These churches have been at the heart of our communities for hundreds of years and play an important role in bringing people together. We disagree with both the methodology and the decision that is being proposed and ask the Church of England to think again.

“Our churches are more than just buildings to local people and local areas; they are part of the community fabric.”

Church Wigan has a network of seven community pantries, clubs that give people access to good quality food and hygiene products at massively reduced prices. Last year these services saved some of the most vulnerable households in Wigan £234,000 on their shopping bill, Church Wigan has said.

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In a nine-month review of options, 31 church buildings in the area were carefully appraised looking at the state and quality of the building, its future ability to serve our communities and contribute to the mission of the church, and ongoing sustainability.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Liverpool said: “Like any wise organisation, we need to steward well the gifts we’ve been given. Our church buildings are a gift from previous generations which still have a deep significance for many people.

“Yet they must also meet the practical needs of our communities today which are different and sometimes require expensive adaptations. Making decisions about church buildings is difficult, but we owe it to future generations to address this now.

“The reality is, we cannot afford to maintain and invest in all our church buildings.

"And so I’m grateful for the careful and respectful assessment and look forward to discussing it with church congregations, neighbours and partners in due course, so that we may have the right buildings for the future.”

Another 15 buildings are being reviewed further, but the church has stated they will not be able to afford to retain all of them.

Churches at risk and undergoing further review:

St Andrew’s, Springfield

All Saints, Hindley

St John the Evangelist, Abram

St Peter, Hindley

St James w. St Elizabeth, Bickershaw

St David, Haigh

St Luke, Orrell

St John the Divine, Pemberton

St Barnabas, Marsh Green

St Luke, Stubshaw Cross

Holy Trinity, Downall Green

St George, Wigan

All Saints, Wigan

St Matthew, Highfield

St Paul, Goose Green

At one of the affected churches – Haigh St David’s – a meeting has been convened and the following notice posted:

"The Church of England in Wigan is currently reviewing its 31 church buildings.

"Some are iconic landmarks, some are tucked away in the middle of an estate, yet all are precious and have played an important role in the lives of countless people over the years.

"Sadly, we cannot afford to keep all of them anymore.

There are various reasons why this is the case: the cost of maintaining many old buildings and adapting them to meet modern requirements, and our ability to offer ministry in so many places, to name but two.

"It is heart-breaking to have to choose, but there is no other option.

"The review is to determine as fairly and wisely as possible which church buildings best help us continue to proclaim the goodness and love of God and serve our communities in practical ways.

"A vital part of this is to have conversations with all church members and others who connect with church in various ways.

"Please come along to the meetings happening in church after the 9.15am service on Sunday October 15 to help us grapple with this challenge and come to the best possible decision.

"Alternatively email your comments to [email protected].”