Girl Guides out as church seeks richer pickings

Jeni Harvey

A GIRL GUIDE group has had to stop meeting in a South Yorkshire church hall because the local vicar has told them he can make 2,000 a year from commercial rentals instead.

Around 100 members of the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides, who used the parish centre for weekly meetings, were given just a month to find a new building by vicar the Rev James Grenfell.

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Mr Grenfell, vicar of St John’s Church in Ranmoor, Sheffield, told district Guiding commissioner Lydia Killingley that he could not afford to ignore the potential annual income of 2,000 to hire the room the Guides used for one evening a week.

The Guiding unit had at one time paid a voluntary annual donation of 150, but that payment stopped several years ago. The group has now found a new venue after leaders decided they could not afford the church’s commercial charges.

One parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “This is a most un-Christian like act. Facilities like this are surely provided for the benefit of the general community.

“The Guides have used the facilities for some time without a problem. It is only one evening a week but it seems that other things are more important.

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“For the church to put money before the needs of children and parishioners is very disappointing. New accommodation has been found but the parents will have to pay increased fees.”

Mr Grenfell said he wished the Guide group well, and added: “Ranmoor Parish Centre has been pleased to support the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides for a number of years, during which time they have paid very little or no rent.

“As one of the rooms which they have previously used is no longer available to them on these terms, we have offered them alternative accommodation, which they have declined.

“We are glad to hear they have found a suitable venue elsewhere and wish them well .

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“The annual rental income from the Garden Room for one evening a week is around 2,000 and currently that is a potential income that we can’t afford to pass up.”

Ranmoor Parish Centre’s website advertises facilities for weddings, birthdays and conferences for a charge of up to 54 an hour for the whole building, with an extra 41 an hour for the kitchen.

Regular users of the Garden Room are charged 12.33 an hour, but the Guides were exempt.

Ms Killingley said: “We are very happy about the new location. Ranmoor Parish Centre is run as a business and they have the right to use it as they wish.”

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The vicar’s decision comes just a few months after staff at another church in Sheffield banned a Tai Chi class for pensioners from the church hall – over concerns it may be anti-Christian.

The row erupted after the group arranged to hold classes in the hall, in the grounds of All Saints’ Church in Totley.

Previously, the Tai Chi classes were held in a local Conservative club but, when popularity grew, organisers had to look for a bigger venue.

Vicar the Rev David Rhodes said the decision to ban the classes was due to their link with the Taoist religion and added: “Our understanding is that the basis of Tai Chi is in Eastern religion and from the church’s point of view that isn’t something that we want to be involved in.”

Tai Chi combines deep breathing and concentration with slow controlled to develop strength, balance and calm.