DUDLEY’S three Anglican vicars have issued a challenge to the community to “step up to the plate” and help keep their neighbourhood church open.

Earlier this year, the News reported how the seven Dudley Group of Churches are facing possible closure because of spiralling repair costs and falling congregation numbers.

None of the team - St Thomas and St Luke (Top Church), St Edmund King and Martyr (Bottom Church), St James, St Francis, St Augustine, St Barnabas and St John, are financially viable and with repair costs estimated at around £1.2 million, difficult decisions need to be made and closing buildings and merging buildings could be the only option.

Over the past few months, the churches, supported by Andrew Mottram, Heritage Buildings and Community Development Officer for the Diocese of Worcester, have been running a consultation and through a questionnaire asked for residents attitudes to the Dudley churches.

In total 348 people replied, but the snapshot showed how 70 per cent of people, many who were no longer churchgoers, indicated they would fight to keep open a church designated for closure and a similar proportion felt the community should help fund the church buildings.

The three team vicars, who cover the seven churches – Reverend’s Christine Browne, Andrew Wickens and Judith Oliver – are now issuing a ‘use it or lose it’ rally call to the community to step up and keep their church building operating in a bid to prevent closures – as the churches are only funded by the few people who attend them.

Andrew Mottram, said: “The Church of England is a large organisation but each parish is independent and has to be self-financing in terms of its operational and building costs. It is down to the local people to fund the local church.”

He added: “The situation will not be fixed by ‘more of the same’ unless there is an overwhelming response from the wider community to join in church life, get involved with fundraising and develop the community use of the buildings.”