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Press and News - 4th May 2010

John Dennis steps down after 40 years as a churchwarden


Chris Trewhella (left), who will step down as a churchwarden at All Saints' in 12 months time, with John Dennis who retired this month. [Credit Richard Evans]

John Dennis has retired after serving as a churchwarden at All Saints' church in Stansfield for more than 40 years.

Chris Trewhella, who has worked alongside John as the other churchwarden since the 1980s, announced he will also step down in 12 months time.

The departures expose the fragile state of the village church. Sarah Douglas-Pennant recently stood down as secretary to the Parochial Church Council and the post remains unfilled.

Chris is also the PCC treasurer and a yet-to-be-identified successor will have to be found in January 2011.

The Revd Stephen Abbott said there were churchwarden vacancies in three other parishes in the benefice. "Things are grim at the moment," he said.

He identified three main problems in the benefice and further afield:

  • Falling numbers attending church
  • Financial difficulties
  • Lack of people coming forward to fill posts within churches

"The sad fact is that we cannot continue as parish churches unless people do the main jobs," he said.

The best hope would be for a village church to become a chapel of ease or to be declared redundant.

He hoped the survey currently being conducted by the benefice into the attitudes of villagers towards the church would result in some new people coming forward to fill key posts.

In addition, Wickhambrook church had suggested the seven PCCs in the benefice should hold a meeting with a senior member of the Bishop's staff to discuss the current difficulties and how to face the future.

The problems confronting the church come as All Saints' attempts to raise £94,000 over the next five years for renovations and repairs

On what he described as a "quite emotional day for me - in fact, very emotional," John thanked Chris for all he had done as a fellow churchwarden over the past two decades. He also thanked the church's organists, his wife Sara together with Sue Long.

He highlighted the fund raising efforts of Paul and Sue Long with their summer BBQ and the 'major contribution' made by the village fete - and thanked Hugh Douglas-Pennant and Paul Spearman for doing so much to help keep the graveyard neat and tidy.

John expressed puzzlement as to why so few people came to church while an "amazing number" now came to the annual carol service. "I don't know what we have done to make it so popular."

The Rector said everyone owed John a great debt of thanks for all his work over the years and he gave him the honorary title of Churchwarden Emeritus in recognition of all he had done.

Credit - Story by Richard Evans. Used with permission, from the "Village And Church News" of Stansfield, Denston and Stradishall, No.212 May 2010.

John's award for long service

Last Modified Thursday 06 September 2018