St Mary’s: Bishop says weekly services can continue – but there’s a ‘but…’

(Pic: Geoff Wilkinson)

Campaigners wanting to preserve a tradition of weekly worship at Wanstead’s St Mary’s church on Overton Drive have had some good news – though there are strings attached.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, has decided not to accept a plan that would have seen services take place at St Mary’s on just a handful of Sundays each year.  This was the decision that members of the congregation at St Mary’s had been lobbying him for.

But the bishop also decided that most services at St Mary’s would be led by a lay member of the congragation, rather than one of the ordained ministers. There would now only be one Holy Communion at the church each month, instead of the current four.  On one Sunday each month there would be a joint service at Christ Church.

The Wanstead parish has two churches – St Mary’s and Christ Church – and the parish had proposed the plan to stop weekly worship at St Mary’s, even though the congregation who go there wanted it to continue. The rector of Wanstead, the Revd Jack Dunn, said he “warmly welcomed the [bishop’s] wise and compassionate” decision.

In short, then, it means that the precious Wanstead building can continue to be used on most weeks. A working group is being set up which will attempt to find ways to make the new arrangement sustainable.