Bishop holds summit at crisis-hit church

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A leading Lancashire clergyman held clear-the-air talks with parishioners at a controversial Chorley village church at the weekend.

The public meeting, at Holy Trinity in Hoghton, was chaired by the acting Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev John Goddard, on Sunday.

It was the first meeting between churchgoers and the bishop since the shock resignation of its vicar, the Rev David Dickinson.

A minority of parishioners were accused of driving him out this summer, when the Rev Dickinson left, blaming stress. Since then, there has been a period of uncertainty at the church.

Church warden Tim Burridge said: “Within the church there has been concerns, and the point of the meeting was to let people speak really. This was an opportunity to meet the bishop and for an open exchange of views.”

He added: “We really need to find a way forward. I thought that the meeting did what it said it would do. I thought the bishop handled it very well. I think it was quite positive, and I think we will all benefit from it.

“There were a couple of people who did ask questions about their concerns, and I think that was dealt with.

“I think we will see an easing of the unrest.

“Long-term, I think everything will get back together, and in the fullness of time the bishop will appoint another vicar, and I think everything was positive and was moving forward. I think it’s fair to say people want another vicar appointed sooner rather than later, but these things take time.

“There’s a procedure to go through.”

Members of his congregation claim Reverend Dickinson was driven out by a small group of elderly traditionalists following two years of friction.

It is understood the final straw for the vicar came when most of the choir boycotted a wedding, and members of the congregation had to step in to save the day.

A member of the Parochial Church Council said: “We have lost a fantastic vicar because of a minority of wicked people.”

His last service at the church attracted a full house, with many parishioners in tears.

A spokesman for Blackburn Diocese said: “The bishop chaired a meeting of the congregation and the discussions took place in an atmosphere of openness. There was an opportunity to review past events, and to plan for future developments, including hopes for a new priest at Hoghton.”