Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Parish Capers

Now here (see ) is an odd story. The Manx Church Commissioners calling public meetings to discuss the future of two churches.
This has never happened before, so why do it now? And, apart from the falling away of congregations which all Manx churches are experiencing, is there anything unique about either failing church here?
Well, a few unique things actually.
Lezayre looks like a picture postcard country church, and has the kind of catchment area that ought to bring in enough well-heeled punters to tick over. Problem is, both Lezayre and the tiny Auldyn Church down the road used to be run by the local Freemasons. In fact Auldyn Church was built with Freemason money for strictly masonic purposes, and, amusingly, without a funny handshake no-one gets through the door to a church so architecturally challenged it would make a gargoyle puke.
Then the Lezayre vicar got a bit concerned because these rolled-up trouser merchants kept picking his parish council. When he put it to them that such bodies are supposed to be open for any churchgoing villager to participate in they demurred. After all, they also pick the Commissioners, and the (anti-)social programme for the village hall, and make sure only their mates get planning applications through (even if it means blind or disabled people can’t get their homes adapted)…
In fact, nothing in the area happens without Masonic approval. So when they decided the vicar was a bit too uppity most of what’s left of the congregation (as subservient hat-tippers who need what unskilled work remains in Ramsey, being unemployable anywhere else) left too.
Jurby Church is a different matter.
If Jurby was twinned with Chernobyl then Chernobyl would be insulted – that’s how bleak the landscape is. And that isn’t my cheap crack – some kids visiting FROM Chernobyl actually said that! Some great, if impoverished, folk live there, and they’ve tried to make it a decent community – despite the Manx government – but they’re on a hiding to nothing.
It grew out of an ugly housing estate built round a run-down military airfield. Then the airbase closed, then the collection of Nissen huts that used to house an eclectic range of junk shops that made a great Sunday out closed. Then the government grants to various enterprises that were supposed make it a thriving industrial estate ran out, and that closed.
Most recently the racing circuit on the airfield lost the ACU licence because the approach roads which formed part of the circuit were too potholed by heavy lorries delivering materials to construct the new prison… this rate even the new prison will close. Actually, that wouldn’t surprise me either, as judging from the build quality who knows how much money was skimmed off the ludicrous sums paid to the local contractors (not counting what they saved by employing cheap foreign labour instead of local workers).
Jurby Church is a windswept building clinging to the coast just outside of all this. It has a tiny, elderly congregation who, most Sundays, probably can’t even brave the Force 9 gales to get there. The one thing that might save it is some Norse/Celtic stonework enclosed in the entrance, which the Manx government is not allowed to lose for the nation (though they would probably give it a go).
On the other hand, Jurby School is infested with visiting evangelicals, and the Methodists must have worked out that Sandygate Chapel – a mile or so in the other direction - is a pretty, well situated building which any developer would pay enough for to clear the Isle of Man Methodist Circuit debt. Oh, by the way, Lezayre has a saleable little vicarage too. Oops, almost gave the game away.
So, various possibilities there then. Sadly, none of which will benefit ordinary decent churchgoers, but it will be interesting to see which scams win, and how they are excused.

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