A CHURCH vicar has been inundated with abuse after the closure of St Thomas's Church in Leigh.

The Bedford Parish Church officially closed on Sunday and all services moved to All Saints Church — soon to be named St Thomas and All Saints Church.

Although the church has been closed for two years, due to its dilapidated state, the Bishop of Bolton conducted a closing service on Sunday.

It was accepted that the cost to repair and maintain the building, which was built in 1902, would cost £1.5 million and therefore it was agreed between the Church Commissioners, the Diocese of Manchester and the Parochial Church Council that the church should close.

However after a notice of the service, including the vicar's contact details was circulated on Facebook, he has received abusive phone calls, blaming him for the church's closure.

The Rev Robert Dixon, who has been in the parish for four years, said: "Some of the calls were very supportive and others just wanted to know what had happened.

"But I have had some very critical calls saying that there must have been something I could do to save it — to those people, I say that £1.5 million does not grow on trees.

"The corrosion and dilapidated masonry doesn't happen overnight, it has being happening for over 30 years.

"The question needs to be asked, why the repairs were not done a long time ago?

"It is very hurtful to have have to go through what this parish has, but the critical comments are unnecessary."

It is understood that the church building was declared structurally unsound because of faults with the electrics and masonry.

At the closing service Mr Dixon removed the statue of St Thomas, the blessed Virgin Mary and the church Sacrament.

He added: "It has been a difficult few months, but the congregation is very supportive and All Saints have really kept me going — they picked me up when I was down.

"All credit to them for keeping the parish viable, they want to keep the parish going and it is growing.

"The service was a fitting conclusion and I just hope that it will help the parish move forward and look to the future."

For more information contact the diocesan officers directly: Alan Simpson on 0161 828 1419, the Archdeacon of Salford on 0161 708 9366 or press officer, Ann Mummery on 0161 828 1400.

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