Words: John Baron
A church covering parts of Bramley and Upper Armley could close its doors for the last time – and become a new community resource.
The Church of England is proposing to close the Church of the Venerable Bede, off Cockshott Lane and Green Lane, saying the place of worship is no longer viable.
They have launched a public consultation into the closure of the church and the dissolution of the parish, which runs until Tuesday 21 December 2021.
If the closure goes ahead, the building will be transferred to Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL) for use as a cultural, community, educational, sports and arts centre for the use by and benefit of the local community. VAL is a charity that supports communities by helping people and organisations that do good in Leeds.
A ‘drop-in’ session is planned for 3pm to 6pm in the church on Monday 6th December 2021. Representatives of VAL will be there to share their vision and plans for taking on the management of the building when it ceases to be a parish church, some time in 2022.
Emma Cosgrif, of the Church Commissioners, will also be there to advise people about the process of closure and about raising any objections in writing.
A consultation document says Venerable Bede was part of the review of inner West Leeds parishes conducted with clergy and lay readers from July 2018 to July 2019.
The incumbent clergy had originally raised serious doubts about the viability of the church and the parish in 2016, and the review concluded that his doubts were justified. The report adds:
“It was found that, in comparison with neighbouring parishes, the Venerable Bede had unfortunately been unable to grow into a mission-focused congregation. There are tiny numbers of occasional offices and most significantly the parish boundaries do not constitute a coherent area for the pastoral mission of the church.
“The area to the north of the Stanningley bypass relates more naturally to Bramley, and to the south to Upper Armley. In both parishes, there is scope for continuing to strengthen their mission by targeted use of resources, including church planting/revitalisation, which will include reaching out to the areas proposed for inclusion within their boundaries.
“The Diocese says that although there would naturally be grief at losing a building which members of the congregation have made their home for many years, there is scope for them to receive and give encouragement as they share worship and ministry with the other congregations that they will be able to join, while being free of the need to maintain all the necessary infrastructure of a parish which has become burdensome.”
The report adds that the former Diocesan Buildings for Mission Officer has worked closely with the parish and community on the nearby Wyther Park estate with a view to the church becoming a community hub.
“This is seen as the only community facility for the Wyther estate, and there are signs of growing community use which will give a sustainable future to the building,” the report concludes.
The consultation and report can be viewed here.