Campaigner thrown out of village church

NADV. All Saints Church at Ripley. 110331ARpic7.

NADV. All Saints Church at Ripley. 110331ARpic7.

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A pensioner has been thrown out of a church in Ripley after protesting the sale of the village vicarage.

Retired newspaper editor John Hirst, 77, is calling on the church to stop the sale of the vicarage and preserve its heart in the village.

NADV 1305142AM1 Parishioners at Ripley Church.  John Hirst with fellow parishioners who who want a new vicar at Ripley Church. (1305142AM1)

NADV 1305142AM1 Parishioners at Ripley Church. John Hirst with fellow parishioners who who want a new vicar at Ripley Church. (1305142AM1)

But he was forced to leave the church on Saturday after petitioning parishioners. He sat outside instead for six-and-a-half hours and said he collected 250 signatures anyway.

“I was ordered to leave by the church wardens,” he said. “It was very unfortunate.

“It caused quite a fuss as there were lots of people about.

“I don’t think they had any right to order me out of the church building. It was very unpleasant and I refused to do it.

“But he said if I didn’t leave he would take my things outside for me.”

The vicarage, which has traditionally been made available to the vicar at All Saints Church in Ripley, is being sold off by the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds.

The church invited sealed bids over £500,000 earlier this month, but Mr Hirst believes it could go for much more.

The pensioner, who has presented the petition to the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, John Packer, is calling on him to prevent the vicarage from being sold.

“It’s not right,” he said. “There’s lots of weddings in Ripley, people come from all over the country to get married here.

“Parishioners want to have their own vicar in residence in the village, in the vicarage.

“I’m making myself unpopular with the church but my conscience has delivered me to do what I’ve done. It may be presented as a fait accompli but it’s worth a try.”

Interviews for a replacement are ongoing but the United Benefice of Ripley, Bishop Thornton, Burnt Yates, Markington and South Stainley has been without a vicar for four months.

The previous vicar, the Rev Paul Cresswell who died suddenly in January at the age of 61, had chosen to live in Markington and the Ripley vicarage has been empty since.

The building, said a spokesman for the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, has been rented out privately for the past three years.

“The decision was taken some years ago about where the vicar would actually live and he chose to live in Markington, ” he said.

“That decision is two or three years old.

“Where there’s no particular need for a vicarage it would normally be sold and that’s what’s happening in this case.

“The money will be used to support ministry in the area and throughout the diocese.”

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