MONKS have hit back at criticism that £2m plans for refurbishments to their church will be “destructive”.
The brothers have spoken out after the Dean of St Paul’s and the Bishop of Salisbury criticised their plans to revamp the church at the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield.
In a letter to the Church Times, the Bishop and Dean say the refurbishments are “an attempt to erase the memory of the first century of the Community’s life”.
But Fr George Guiver, of the Community, told the Examiner the main reason the community is levelling the floor is to allow disabled access to the Romanesque church.
He said: “Thousands of people visit us during the year. We get a lot of groups coming for a day and we take them round the building.
“There are nine or ten levels in the church and at the moment anyone in a wheelchair has to get left behind.”
There are also plans to install underfloor heating at the Stocksbank Road site.
The altars, choir stall and the tombs of the Community’s founder, Bishop Charles Gore, and the consolidator of the community, Bishop Charles Frere, will have to be removed.
This has drawn strong opposition from the Victorian Society and The Twentieth Century Society. But Father George says the tombs are just symbolic and don’t contain the Bishops’ bodies.
He said the bishops were cremated and their ashes would be easy to accommodate with a plaque marking the spot where the ashes lie “in a way that will enable better access around the high altar with large groups.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are patrons of the re-building appeal.This month Archbishop Tutu visited the monastery to bless the foundation stone for the new church and to pray for the future of the community.
Twenty brothers live at The Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, and take life vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
They welcome 3,000 visitors every year.
The Centenary Church Appeal hopes to have repair works finished for the church’s 100th year in 2011.
Following the criticism, plans have been re-drawn and there will no longer be a tiled depiction of the “River of Life” on the floor, but the Community still hopes to make the church wheelchair friendly. Any reconstruction depends on permission from diocesan faculties.