A CEREDIGION community has spoken of its sadness after failing to secure an empty church which they had hoped to turn into a local hub.

St Sulien’s Church was made redundant in 2020.

In response, local people set up a not-for-profit organisation, Menter Silian, to try and to save the building and transform it into a hub for the community, who do not currently have a space to meet.

With support from Cynnal y Cardi and the Architectual Heritage Fund Menter Silian carried out a comprehensive feasibility study and produced a business plan which showed it would be viable to repair and renovate the building and run it as a community hub.

Church sulien
A padlock on the door of the church which has has been part of the community for more than 1,000 years (Supplied)

Nikki Vousden, secretary of Menter Silian: “This summer the Church in Wales’ Property Services asked us to commit to signing a lease by September, which would make us responsible for maintaining and running the building, as well as undertaking a programme of repairs.

“We were told that if we did not agree to the lease the building would be sold on the open market.

“Following in depth discussions with CiW it became clear that the terms of the lease would contain a number of conditions and restrictions, which made us decide that we would not be able to take it on.

“The building cannot be used in its current condition, as it needs extensive repairs, including a new floor.

“We would be tied into paying for the utilities and day to day maintenance of a building we are unable to use.

The oldest member of the former congregation (Rhythwyn Evans, aged 94) at the community coffee morning inside the church in February 2023. (Supplied)

“We are only a small community and just cannot see ourselves being able to generate that sort of income as well as raising the large amounts of grant funding needed to repair and renovate the building.

“We are deeply saddened to have had to make this decision, as we have put an absolutely huge amount of work into the project. It is truly heart-wrenching to lose the building – not only have we lost a community space, we are losing a really important piece of our heritage. The site has been a place of worship since the early medieval period, so has been part of our community for well over a thousand years.

“The campaign to save the building has highlighted how much the church building and its historic artefacts mean to the local community. We are in communication with CiW and Cadw regarding the war memorials and early medieval artefacts housed within the church, and will do everything within our power to ensure are stay in the village where they belong.”

Church Sulien
A coffee morning being held in the church in 2023 (Supplied)

County councillor Eryl Evans added: “It is unfortunate that the opportunity to have our own community hub within the village has come at a time when the cost of living crisis is hitting hard.

“Combined with a number of caveats listed by the CiW, the proposed lease agreement in it’s current form would be an unsustainable financial burden on the community. The church was reconstructed in 1873 and it is poignant that this is the year we should have been celebrating 150 years.

“Generations of families have accessed the church and grounds for the purpose of worship, community events or for quiet reflection and for decades this has been an integral part of village life and consequently the community feels a strong sense of ownership for this building.

“The newly padlocked door serves as a harsh reminder that the community no longer has access to this facility”.

The Church in Wales said in response: "The Church in Wales has supported the Menter Silian project team since 2017, when the congregation decided to close St Sulien Church for regular worship.

"During that time, we have met with the group on a regular basis and continued to bear the annual costs of buildings insurance, electricity supply charges, and essential repairs and maintenance.

"In 2023 the group was asked to confirm whether they were yet in a position to consider taking the vacant building on the proposed lease, or, if further time was required, to consider contributing to the ongoing holding costs of the building as it was held for them. Sadly the group decided that it was not able to do so.

"We have confirmed to Menter Silian that we are very happy to consider further proposals from them in relation to the building or the relocation of historic artefacts from within (in liaison with Cadw). In the meantime, we need to move to find a new use for the building to ensure its long term sustainability and survival.

"The former church at Silian is sadly one of more than 100 former Anglican places of worship in Wales that are closed and awaiting a new use.

"The Church in Wales and its congregations receive no external funding to enable these buildings to be kept open and – overall – the grant funding landscape is increasingly competitive and challenging, resulting in the loss of buildings and places that contain the heritage of the nation and its people.

"The Church in Wales, and the other Welsh Church and Chapel denominations, continues to work alongside colleagues in England and Scotland, through the National Churches Trust and other bodies, to raise awareness of this issue and to lobby Government and funding bodies in relation to this sad loss.