Summary: Meeting about The Future of Kenton Church held 9th September 2020
The Current Situation
There are 2 aspects to the current situation:
1) The spiritual life of the church: Kenton church is part of the “Five Red churches Mission Community” led by Reverend John Williams who lives in Exminster. Kenton has no vicar residing in the village and it has a small PCC with one churchwarden (who needs to stand down having worked hard for 6 years) and a small congregation.
2) The building itself: the church is a large grade 1 listed building which requires a huge amount of money to maintain.
The church has been closed to the public since October 2019, due to fallen plaster from the south aisle ceiling. The North aisle ceiling also has cracks which need to be inspected and if necessary repaired to make the church safe.
The cost of repairing both aisle ceilings is £40,000. Funds have now reached approximately £23,000 and repairs to the south aisle can begin, we are awaiting a start date from the contractors. As well as the ceiling repairs, there is also a need to carry out other repairs including the roof.
Where does the responsibility lie?
The church building is owned by the C of E, but the maintenance of the building is the responsibility of the PCC (who are considered stewards). To merit a resident vicar, Kenton has to contribute to the diocese’s “Common Fund” with an annual payment for 2020 of £16,850.
In 2019, Kenton church members contributed £12,000 to the Common Fund, which is a huge figure for a small congregation. This year, 2020, it has contributed nothing. The situation has been compounded by Covid 19 as the church has not been able to hold services or fund raise. Until Kenton pays the full amount, it will not be considered for a new resident vicar.
In addition, the insurance for the church is around £5000 per annum and the cost of energy £2-3000 per annum, also the responsibility of the congregation.
The burden of this huge financial commitment and focus on maintenance of the building detracts from the spiritual aspect of church life.
The number of people, in excess of 40, who attended the meeting on September 9 was an indication of the love and value placed on the church by the village, not only by churchgoers. Kenton church is a grade 1 listed building which has stood for many centuries and is of great architectural interest, visited by people from all over the world. There is a real need for the village to come together to support the maintenance of this wonderful village asset to preserve it for generations to come.
We believe the time is right to form a small group, called the Friends of Kenton Church, to spearhead this campaign. The vision of the Friends group is to raise funds for the preservation of the building thus relieving the burden of building works from the PCC. The Friends Group will be able to apply for charitable status so that the church can benefit from Gift Aid.
It is very encouraging that a few other people at the meeting did not want to join the Friends group but offered their support for the group and to take on necessary tasks and this is very welcome. Anyone wishing to help with these tasks please contact Jane Perkins or Rob Rand.
Rob has applied for three grants, two of which had been successful. He is awaiting the outcome of a grant application to Viridor Waste Management. There are also grants available to help mitigate the effect of the COVID pandemic. It was suggested that the Friends Group could ideally use someone whose task would be to continually apply for various grants.
Other Key Suggestions/thoughts from the Meeting:
To grow the church in the village, Kenton needs a young, dynamic priest, ideally a family. A ‘House for Duty’ priest or volunteer isn't suitable.
Possible “planting” of a new church here, from within another successful church.
The importance of the church for community use, as well as religious services.
Coffee shop for community use and to provide an income. This could be used by families after dropping off their children at school, like Coffee on the Corner in Exminster.
The use of the church for diverse activities and by diverse groups of people will improve our chances of successful grant applications. We need to be creative and inventive in our thinking.
Suggestion that the majority of the pews be cleared to open up a more versatile, usable space. Cited Sidmouth church as a good example of how this can be beneficial.
Possible conflict with use of the village hall? It was felt that the 2 venues would probably be used for very different events - the hall was basically designed for sports, but the church is acoustically ideal for musical events, as well as arts and crafts exhibitions etc. Simon Rains (for the Victory Hall) said there will be no conflict of interest here.
Leaflet drop across all properties in the village to raise awareness
Contact the BBC? - Pik Rawlings spoke about the video that has recently been made to highlight the issues around the church closure; it will be posted to YouTube and? Kenton public Facebook page.
Possible financial help from the Parish Council.
We are so grateful for all the donations which have been made by the local community in recent months as this has enabled us to proceed with the first phase of the works.