MARKET Rasen will be left without a vicar when the present incumbent retires.
That was the stark realisation after a meeting of local churches showed the deanery to be in deficit.
The diocese says Westwold Deanery cannot afford the four priests it has and as the Rev Michael Cartwright will be 70 in December next year, the age priests have to retire, it is the Rasen parish which is likely to be the first to become vacant.
“After I have retired, no vicar will be appointed to serve Market Rasen in the immediate foreseeable future,” said Mr Cartwright.
“Although we are a healthy parish, with an active and talented congregation, pay our parish share in full and meet our obligations, some of the other parishes in the deanery do not pay their dues so there is a deanery deficit.”
The Rev Cartwright was appointed Vicar of Market Rasen in 1987 and since then the people from the church have raised money to improve the bells, the tower and church meeting room – a total of half-a-million pounds in total – as well as meeting their parish share, which currently stands at around £32,000 a year.
“It wouldn’t matter if we raised £50,000 or more each year.
“If Market Rasen parish is the first to become vacant, under current plans it will be penalised for the failures of others and the vacancy will not be filled.
“The number of paid priests in this deanery will go down to three and, if the deficit continues to rise, the number of priests will continue to fall.”
The deanery, one of the largest rural areas stretching from Snarford to Swallow, is made up of the Walesby, Middle Rasen, Market Rasen and Caistor Groups of Parishes.
Based on figures provided by the parishes themselves, more than three percent of the deanery population attend church; compared to urban areas this is a massive percentage.
“If each one of these people gave realistically, we are talking about a weekly contribution equal to the cost of a half decent bottle of wine, or one gallon of petrol,” said Mr Cartwright.
“Not a great amount of money for the ministrations of an ordained priest you might think.”