Church allowed to remove pews to allow Muslim events - after court challenge over plans
The church hopes that the removal of pews will allow it to cater for non-Christians
St Thomas Werneth in Oldham has been given the green light to remove the pews so it is able to hold more events within the wider community.
In a ruling last month, Geoffrey Tattersall QC said the church would be allowed to remove the pews as the proposals would have “major public benefit outweighing any harm resulting from the loss of the pews”.
The area, which is close to Manchester, has an 88 per cent non White-British population.
GETTY It is hoped that the wider community can feel welcomed into the church
Its website encouraged people of all nationalities to attend the services.
They said: “We usually have at least six nationalities represented in the congregation on a given Sunday.
“Whatever your background you can be assured of a warm welcome to our services and our Parish life.”
The Chancellor of the Diocese of Manchester said: “Its continuing presence is important in enabling social cohesion and contact between local Muslims and Christians.
“The purpose of the re-ordering of the Church is to open up the Church for community use, as part of its service and mission to the mainly Muslim community in the parish and to enable the wider community to share its heritage.
"The Church wishes to be a place of welcome, growth and engagement for the local communities."
GETTY The majority of people in the area of the church are non White British
The Venerable Cherry Vann, the Archdeacon of Rochdale said there was significant interfaith work going on in the area and there was a “genuine desire among some of the Muslim leaders to build bridges and work in partnership with the Church.
“Moreover there is clearly some goodwill towards the church in the (at present) largely Muslim community in Werneth and it is important that the church has the flexibility and capacity to exercise a ministry of hospitality to those living in the parish through a variety of community-based activities.”
The Victorian Society claimed the removal of the pews could damage the church.
They said: “Individually the pews are not of major importance as objects in their own right. However, en masse, they make an important contribution to the character of the interior of the church.
"The rhythm of repeating pews, the dark wood and the shape of the aisle drawing the eye to the east is an important element of what makes this a Victorian church interior”.
In March, a Church of England court ruled that plans to replace the pews with comfortable seating would encourage more people to attend.