The 100-year-old St Michael’s and All Angels church in the Burringbar main street – which has a tiny parish membership of around 10 people – and its adjacent op shop face being sold off by the Anglican diocese of Grafton in its wider regional bid to shore up funds for loan repayments.
Burringbar residents campaigning to prevent the sell-off have been given up to six months to find the funds to buy it following a meeting with diocesan officials last Friday.
The group is calling on the community to form a committee to explore ways of fundraising, such as grants and donations, to buy the church for continued parish and community use.
Following a community outcry and calls for the church to be put to community use or heritage protected, representatives from several local groups and parishioners were invited to talk about the church’s future with delegates from the diocese.
Tweed mayor Barry Longland also attended the meeting.
Resident Debra Allard said later that various ideas were put on the table on possible funding avenues for a community buyback but ‘it was made clear that the parish wished to be able to continue worshipping in at least part of the church and to share with other denominations’.
‘Suggestions were given to the future use of the church including being retained as a chapel for weddings, religious celebrations and bible meetings as well as musical and choral gatherings,’ Mrs Allard said.
‘The op shop could still continue to be run and proceeds spent on the upkeep and maintenance of both the buildings and the church. Land surrounding the buildings could possibly be used to facilitate other community needs.’
But Mrs Allard said ‘the cold hard facts are that the Anglican Church needs to recoup financial losses and the properties that they own need to be sold to give the Anglican Church more financial leverage to continue to fund the churches that are well attended and other causes like nursing homes, hospices, etc.
‘Therefore unless the community can raise the funds to purchase the land package at the agreed valued price then it will have to be sold publicly.
‘As many of the old churches in regional areas were donated and built by members of the community there will be a heavy regret that they will be sold and the heritage value lost forever.
‘Every little town in the Grafton Anglican Diocese will have to face the decision that unless their churches have a regular, well attended congregation, the church will be considered for sale. If not this year, sometime in the future. Unfortunately Burringbar is on the list now and the diocese has given the parish/community six months with a review after three months to raise the money.’
She urged locals interested in forming the Friends of St Michael’s and All Angels to email [email protected].