Eva Mayled, Isaac Mayled and George Bennett show their disappointment in the Anglican Church's decision to close and sell the church at Glenreagh. Photo: Tim Jarrett
Eva Mayled, Isaac Mayled and George Bennett show their disappointment in the Anglican Church's decision to close and sell the church at Glenreagh. Photo: Tim Jarrett

‘We have kept them going for over 100 years’

FACING the spectre of having two of their historic churches sold off by the Anglican Diocese, residents in the Orara Valley are speaking out.

"The churches were built and maintained by the local community and we have kept them going for over 100 years," said parishioner Garry Dew.

"We find it very difficult to accept the fact they just want to sell them off. The community is very upset and quite angry."

The Anglican Diocese of Grafton's have confirmed they will close and sell-off the 105-year-old church at Glenreagh and the 122-year-old St Paul's church at Coramba, following a significant restructure.

However, the community is not prepared to let it happen without sending the Anglican Church a clear message - they are not happy about it.

Residents from around the Orara Valley are united in their opposition to the Anglican Diocese of Grafton's decision to close churches at Glenreagh and Coramba. Photo: Tim Jarrett
Residents from around the Orara Valley are united in their opposition to the Anglican Diocese of Grafton's decision to close churches at Glenreagh and Coramba. Photo: Tim Jarrett

The community have organised a combined 'Save the Church' gathering in the Glenreagh church grounds to be held on November 15, to reinforce their opposition to the decision.

Mr Dew and a number of other parishioners are particularly angry because the Parish is in a good financial position and he says it has cost the Diocese nothing to keep the churches open.

Since the Orara Valley Parish was formed Mr Dew said all maintenance had been met by the Parish including a new roof for Coramba costing approximately $30,000 and all churches had been recently painted.

They had even donated approximately $10,000 to other charitable groups during last summer's bushfires.

"If there was no one attending and they were in disrepair or if we were financially in a bad way we would understand. But we are not," he said.

"Financially we are quite viable and have paid all expenses to maintain the buildings in excellent order."

"If money is not their motive (for selling the churches), then return these churches to their communities who will continue to maintain them and use them for worship."

Honi Kemsley, Lacey Bienefelt, Mac Bienefelt and Lennox Kemsley at the Glenreagh Anglican Church which is due to be closed. Photo: Tim Jarrett
Honi Kemsley, Lacey Bienefelt, Mac Bienefelt and Lennox Kemsley at the Glenreagh Anglican Church which is due to be closed. Photo: Tim Jarrett

And in an indication of just how much the churches mean to the community, with little notice more than 30 people from around the Orara Valley assembled at the Glenreagh Church late last week to voice their concerns about the closures.

Primary school student Eva Mayled was one of those and the young Glenreagh churchgoer said coming to the church made her feel "happy and joyful" and it would be a shame to see it go.

Eva was regularly at the church with her 'church nan' and really liked the "the songs and all the things about god."

The Diocese released a statement explaining its decision last week which made clear the Valley would not be without an active church, with the Nana Glen Anglican Church to remain.

Mac Bienefelt and Lennox Kemsley at the Glenreagh Anglican Church which is due to be closed. Photo: Tim Jarrett
Mac Bienefelt and Lennox Kemsley at the Glenreagh Anglican Church which is due to be closed. Photo: Tim Jarrett

"What is required is focused ministry based on the needs of the people rather than simply being attached to another parish and reliant on them for their ministry," a Diocese spokesperson said.

"Like many church organisations the Diocese has been working on how to reshape its current ministry structures to best serve the society of the 21st century, recognising the population trends in the region."

The Diocese's full statement can be read here.