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Itchen Valley villagers to hold crunch meeting over future of church
A MUCH-LOVED Itchen Valley church could be forced to shut by the end of the year.
St Peter's Church in Ovington near Alresford is in financial dire straits and its fate could be decided by villagers at a crisis meeting next Sunday (September 16).
A small, picturesque church with a good working organ, it is almost 150-years-old.
Elizabeth Stevenson, secretary to Ovington and Itchen Stoke Parochial Church Council (PCC), said: “We are desperate to keep the church open but our income does not cover our outgoings. We can manage to keep it going to the end of the year. We just don’t know what to do.
“Our killer is the Parish Share as it’s nearly £12,000 a year. It’s that that’s killing us. All churches have to pay it. There are one or two who don’t pay it and they are therefore more likely to be shut down.”
Churchwarden Sarah Thorne, of Coal Lane, has been attending the St Peter’s for 30 years. She said: “The church is the centre of our community: it would be absolutely heart breaking if it were to close. We ran a fete which raised £3,000 and have held concerts, but it’s not enough. These funds have met the basic running costs of the church but are nowhere near what’s needed, and there are just simply not enough people to do it.”
The parish share is the scheme by which a church repays costs which the diocese has met on its behalf – mostly comprising the cost of paying clergy.
The PCC has also agreed to raise funds for £65,000 worth of repairs to the church, but with the congregation standing at 10 to 20 people at the weekly service, the council must establish whether villagers want to maintain the church.
Mrs Stevenson said: “We all take turns to keep it open during the week and the church is just loved and it’s a beautiful church. It would be such a shame if it was closed.”