Seven days to save St Paul’s

Posted on 02/10/2014 by

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Time’s running out for a campaign to save a local church.  St Paul’s RC Church in Muirhouse will close next week – unless campaigners can force a last-minute change of heart from church authorities.

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Hundreds of local residents joined the campaign to save the closure-threatened RC Church, with over 700 people signing a petition to keep the church alive. However church leaders say the building is too costly to maintain and St Paul’s will close with a ‘thanksgiving Mass’ on 10 October.

In a June letter to parishioners, The Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, Leo Cushley, said the church had eaten up hundreds of thousands of pounds in wasted cash since it was built in 1971 and added that the building now urgently needs a new heating system. He said this cost, on top of current parish debt of over £284,000, had led officials to consider the church’s future.

The number of worshippers who regularly attend the Muirhouse church has fallen over the years but that’s not unique to Muirhouse, and parishioners argue that the declining congregation has much more to do with the ongoing regeneration of the area.

Local people believe St Paul’s has a future in Muirhouse. They argue that merging with nearby St Margaret’s is not a realistic solution, and are convinced that St Paul’s could blossom again as the heart of the community when new homes are built and families return to the area.

Last month, campaigners wrote a well-argued five page letter to the Archbishop, pointing out many reasons why church authorities should reconsider: financial, community outreach, the Polish community, the ongoing regeneration of Muirhouse and Pennywell, the expansion of St David’s RC School … all were cited as valid reasons for keeping St Paul’s alive.

The letter concludes: ‘We are not calling for the entire building of St Paul’s to be retained, although many uses have been suggested for all areas of the building, but we fundamentally wish to maintain the wonderful community and spirit of St Paul’s parish that has been fostered over decades.

‘We want to remain as a strong Catholic community in Muirhouse, to be a part of the rejuvenation and regeneration of the area, retaining our unique parish and continuing to do the work of the Lord in our local area.

You stated at the Question and Answer session at St Paul’s on 13 July 2014 that you are in a position to write off the debt of the parish and we would urge you to consider this course of action while we all work together to create a new future for St Paul’s.

The parishioners and wider community are eager and willing to take on more responsibilities and support St Paul’s in every way possible, as has always been the case, taking on new challenges and supporting both the parish and the wider community.

But now, after months of meetings, petitions, letters and appeals, the decision has been made and St Paul’s will close on 10 October.

Campaigner Lorraine McTigue said: “ The closure date is 10 October when a thanksgiving mass will be held, and previous priests, nuns and the Archbishop himself will attend – but the strong feeling in the church is that we do not want to attend, we do not want this church to close for valid reasons.

“I have just met an elderly parishioner outside who said – and I agree – that the parishioners are being emotionally blackmailed and ‘duty-bound’ to accept what is being said and attend this mass, while doing so would be the end of the line.

“There is so much that could be said about this situation. One example: after the mass at 10am on Sunday, there were literally hundreds of people flooding in for the Polish mass – busier than I personally have ever seen the church. We all want expansion and integration, but people have been separated and never encouraged to communicate or socialise – all the reasons for closing the church are contradictory.”

West Pilton parishioner Pamela Hanlon, who has attended the church for twenty years, said: “I think closing St Paul’s is big mistake. I don’t think they realise the damage it does to our community. I understand the financial reasons for it, but what’s happened over the years is that instead of fixing the problems, they have just patched them up. If we had known about it before we could have done some fundraising, but we’ve not been given the opportunity.”

Theresa McGlynn was one of the original parishioners when the church was founded in 1971 and has faithfully attended ever since. “It will break my heart, but I think many of us knew it would come to this in the end. The church has been well used over the years but gradually, since they started knocking the houses down, we have lost a lot of parishioners with them moving away and, of course, many have also gone to their eternal reward now. This church was built when Muirhouse was just being built and we feel we are losing our community.”

In their letter to the Archbishop, parishioners summed up their feelings about impending closure:

A ‘celebration’ thanksgiving mass was mentioned for Friday 10 October but alas, as the disenfranchised, we find nothing to celebrate. Are we really expected to feel thankful for an impending closure of our beloved parish of St Pauls? Such is the feeling of frustration and discontent that we believe the mass will be attended by very few people.’

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