Fringe Box



St John’s Church’s Graveyard Scheme Rejected, But Could Be Resubmitted With Amendments

Published on: 23 Apr, 2015
Updated on: 29 Apr, 2015

A Guildford church’s plans to exhume remains from a graveyard, re-inter them and then sell of the land to raise much needed funds has been turned down by the pastoral committee of the Church Commissioners.

The Anglican St John’s Church in Stoke Road had to submit its proposals to the commissioners, and at a hearing in London yesterday (April 22) its committee decided that current plans to change the use of the western graveyard, on the opposite side of the road to the church, may not proceed.

View of St John's Church in Stoke Road, from the west graveyard.

View of St John’s Church in Stoke Road, from the west graveyard.

The scheme, which would see the present closed churchyard to the west of Stoke Road sensitively exhumed and sold, was supported by members of St John’s parochial church committee; the rector, Revd Mark Woodward; and the Archdeacon of Surrey, the Ven Stuart Beake. Objections were heard from local community members, as well as representation from Western Australia whose interest is in that their first governor, Admiral Sir James Stirling and his wide Ellen, are buried in the churchyard.

The chairman of the Church Commissioners committee, Simon Picken QC, praised the vision and aspiration of the parish within its community, but said the committee had concerns over stakeholder engagement and the details relating to the wider scheme to develop a new church centre at St John’s. He did not rule out the possibility of a similar proposition being put forward in the future if these concerns could be addressed and committed to producing a full report in the next 10 days.

The Revd Mark Woodward, Rector of St John’s, said: “While we are naturally disappointed by the outcome of today’s hearing, we have been encouraged by the committee’s commendation of the vision at St John’s, and that the door is open for further application, which is something we must now consider.

“We are grateful to the Church Commissioners for their consideration of this matter, and for all those from the local community who have spoken both for and against the plans, as well as representation from the people of Western Australia.

“St John’s is a growing church, which remains committed to serving its local community, and we are committed to doing so in consultation with all interested parties, both here and in Western Australia.”

The story of the church’s plans was published in The Guildford Dragon NEWS earlier this year. It has received more replies in our comments box than any other story, with those for and against the scheme.

Those opposing the church’s plans to sell off the graveyard raised a petition that was presented to the Church Commissioners.

Click here and here for other related stories that The Guildford Dragon NEWS has published.

See also: Letter: There Are Other Ways to Fund Church Extension.

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Responses to St John’s Church’s Graveyard Scheme Rejected, But Could Be Resubmitted With Amendments

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    April 23, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    I sometimes wonder, as a Christian, if the present church here in the 21st century has lost touch with Christian life as we once knew it.

    Perhaps we should reflect on Thomas Gray’s, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”:

    “The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep…” and while doing so respect the dignity which those people deserve.

    Their mortal remains should remain unsullied. Let us respect their dignity.

  2. Terry Stevenson Reply

    April 24, 2015 at 11:13 am

    The world’s population is seven billion people – and counting. Eventually, there won’t be sufficient space on the planet to accommodate all their remains and the needs of the present community. Ultimately, what should be given priority?

    From the Christian point of view surely their souls will be long gone. What use are their human remains, other than to provide a muster point for the living to remember? In this regard, when was the graveyard last used for burials, and is it likely that any direct descendants will be around?

    By way of a comparison, why did they not shelve all plans to redevelop the land where the remains of Richard III was recently discovered, rather than re-inter him elsewhere?

    • Alan Page Reply

      April 25, 2015 at 11:11 am

      Exhuming 1000 bodies to suit the expansionist ambitions of some priest? There are churchyards around with bodies going back 300-400 years. They provide a valuable historical service.

      If it were one or two for a minor bit of expansion, that would be different. But 1000? Have you any idea of the scale of that undertaking?

  3. JIm Allen Reply

    April 25, 2015 at 12:03 am

    I had an Indian visitor some years ago, we were discussing home and families. He said his family home was in India and while his family was spread across the world working, they always went back, met at the family home and went to the graves of their ancestors.

    He considered it part of his “community” and “home life”. He decried the western way of discarding ones home to move elsewhere and to forget ones family roots.

    The desecration of a graveyard is easy to do. Just hire a JCB, job done. But what damage it does to the community cannot be assessed by money or possessions. Like our family homes, they have a great “spiritual” value which cannot be assessed by bean counters or planners.

    It is time we thought “community” and “home” not finance and housing. Communities are easy to destroy but not so easy to create.

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