THE vicar at the centre of the community halls row in Hammer has resigned.
A bitter row has been raging between the communities of Lynchmere, Camelsdale and Hammer on one side and the vicar, the Rev David Talks and church-owned St Michael’s Hall trustees on the other, over the proposed sale of the hall.
But he said his decision had not been entirely because of the hall row, ‘although that hasn’t helped because people in the Lynchmere community have been very antagonistic towards me’.
“Primarily I am resigning because I can no longer straddle the gap between my spirituality and theirs.”
He said the parish had asked for a vicar who was ‘evangelical’ which meant ‘somebody who believes in the authority of the scriptures and will faithfully preach the good news of Jesus Christ’. But he added: “They didn’t ask for what they wanted.”
He said there was a ‘vocal but influential’ minority who liked the countryside and flower shows with a ‘kind of bolt-on religiosity’.
“I have been trying to straddle the gap between what they are and what I am for the last four-and-a-half years and in the last year the gap has been too big for me.”
He had tried, he said, to carry out his remit to sell the hall and had ‘brilliant’ support from the church wardens who were also trustees.
He resigns at the end of September, but said Mr Talks, the bishop of Chichester had offered him a ‘house for duty’ role living in the vicarage and working three days a week for Camelsdale only: “At that end of the parish we work very positively together.”
There was a pastoral scheme being discussed, he added to divide the parish, making Camelsdale part of Shottermill in the Guildford Diocese and possibly moving Lynchmere to the Fernhurst parish.
Chairman of the Friends of St Peter’s Church, Lynchmere and a member of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) Patrick Crosthwaite said the resignation had come as a shock ‘but we did know he had been under considerable pressure over the St Michaels Hall issue.’
He said: “After 500 years we may not have a priest. This is a huge disappointment and it has created great sadness.”
St Peter’s was an active congregation and in the past five years more than £100,000 had been raised by the friends for the fabric of the church.
Michael Tibbs, a former church warden and former member of the PCC added: “I am bewildered by the whole thing. David takes the service at Lynchmere very well. I know he was getting unhappy but I am very surprised he has resigned so soon.”
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