Four-bed home is 'too small' for vicar

AS job perks go, you would think a £275,000 four-bedroom village home would be a contract clincher.

Dave Gooderham

AS job perks go, you would think a £275,000 four-bedroom village home would be a contract clincher.

However one Suffolk clergyman felt the house which came with his new parish post was unsuitably small and turned down the position at the last minute - sparking something of an unholy row between the vicar and church bosses.

The Rev David Matthews last night said he had “agreed to disagree” with the position taken by the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich after turning down the house in Hollesley, near Woodbridge, and the position as team vicar with the Wilford Peninsula linked with the property, which also boasts a study, two bathrooms and a hefty conservatory.


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Mr Matthews, who is staying put as rector in the Box River parishes of five villages near Sudbury, claimed the “debacle” had knocked his confidence in “hearing God's will”.

But diocese chiefs said Mr Matthews had been kept fully informed over the purchase of the village property in Hollesley even if the size of the study had not met “parsonage standards”.

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Mr Matthews said: “I do not believe the house is suitable but the diocese believes it is so we have agreed to disagree. I never saw the house until just before I was going to move in. It would have been fine if we were retiring but I have to work from that house and conduct interviews.

“The normal procedure is that you look at the house before the interview but we couldn't in this case. So we took it for granted that the house would be suitable. Sadly my understanding of suitable is different to that of the diocese.”

Nicholas Edgell, the diocesan chief executive officer, said Mr Matthews had seen the outside of the house and had been provided with full details, photographs and rooms sizes.

Mr Edgell said: “When David Matthews was offered the post, it was made clear that a suitable house of parsonage standards was unfortunately not available.

“Mr Matthews accepted the post of team vicar knowing this to be the case. Throughout the process of seeking a new house, Mr Matthews was kept fully informed.

“It is completely untrue to suggest that the house, purchased for the Wilford team, was not fit for purpose. Despite it having four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, kitchen and breakfast room, a separate utility room, a study and a substantial conservatory, the property does not precisely reflect current parsonage guidelines. The property is, however, a good and decent house.”

Explaining the situation in a letter to parishioners, Mr Matthews wrote: “I can fully understand how confusing this 'now you see us now you don't' situation is for the benefice. For us it is both stressful and embarrassing and leaves us wondering how we are to regain your confidence and trust.

“Our confidence in hearing God's will for us has taken quite a knock and it will take a very clear message from God in the future before we will even consider any future moves.”

A parishioner, who did not want to be named, said: “All we know is that he (Mr Matthews) was offered a role elsewhere and he was not given a suitable house. He now seems to be staying in the Box River area. No one can understand what is going on.”

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