At the recent meeting with Bishop Richard and Sarah Kilmartin (Diocesan Chief Operating Officer), the following principles were presented to the parish and accepted, across the board, as a legitimate and reasonable way forward:
- The parishes of Worthing (St Mary of the Angels) and East Worthing/Lancing (St Charles/Holy Family) will be conjoined; the Canonical term is ‘extinctive union’.
- The church, presbytery and hall at East Worthing (along with the car park and the land) will be sold.
- The parish hall at Monks Farm, Lancing will be sold.
- The revenue generated from the sales above will pay for the repair of the church roof here at St Mary of the Angels (which will easily cost £500,000).
- A new, smaller hall will be provided at Lancing Holy Family and funds invested to ‘future proof’ the worshipping community there.
- Eventually, a ‘phase two’ redecoration and reordering of St Mary of the Angels church can be funded (but that’s a little way off yet, even though it is desperately needed).
- The deployment of priests was not discussed at the meeting because the sales and rebuilding works will all take time, and that particular question cannot be easily addressed with so many unknowns.
Clearly, we, as a Church, are in serious crisis at present, with hugely declining numbers at Mass and very very few men offering themselves for the priesthood. This crisis was evident, of course, before the pandemic; it would be lazy and blind to blame Covid-19 for the challenges with which we are faced today and which we have been facing for about 50 years!
This crisis will obviously have a bearing on any future decisions about priestly provision in the area. It can no longer be presumed, sadly, that there will always be a priest available.