Grade I listed Wanstead church likely to be saved from closure

PUBLISHED: 11:39 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:47 09 November 2018

St Mary's church in Wanstead. Photo: Ken Mears

St Mary's church in Wanstead. Photo: Ken Mears


An 18th century church in Wanstead – the borough’s only Grade I listed building – is one step closer to being saved from closure.

Dwindling congregation numbers, high maintenance costs and funding changes had threatened St Mary Virgin, in Overton Drive, with closure as a place of worship.

But at a meeting on Wednesday (November 7), the Parochial Church Council (PCC) voted in favour of keeping it open.

Eighteen of the council’s 22 members voted to seek permission from the Bishop of Chelmsford to grant St Mary’s “festival church” status.

This change would mean an end to weekly worship at St Mary’s.

Instead, a pattern of services for festivals and special events will be agreed by rector Rev Dr Jack Dunn, churchwardens and the PCC.

The parish also owns Christ Church, in Wanstead Place, where weekly worship will continue.

No deadline has been set for the Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell to decide on the St Mary’s but the parish expects the changes to come into effect by February next year.

The council’s decision comes after Wanstead Parish held a consultation with its parishioners over the summer which received more than 200 responses.

In a letter to parishioners, Rev Dr Jack Dunn writes: “The PCC strongly believe that our church community is stronger and more effective both in terms of mission and ministry when we are able to worship together, week in and week out, under one roof.

“The church council believes that this is good news for our wider community and makes good strategic sense for the parish over the mid to long-term, especially with regards to calls on our human resources.”

Rev Dunn added that parish will open St Mary’s the Virgin to the public one Saturday every month for prayer and reflection as of this month.

In his letter, he continues: “We fully understand that for some of our devoted and loyal parishioners this news may be disappointing and that some of our worshippers may have questions for the PCC and ministry team,” Rev Dunn added.

Worshippers with questions for the ministry or PCC can attend one of five drop-in sessions in Christ Church vestry between November and January next year.

To attend or find out more, call 0208 5308 743

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