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Historic church could cut visiting hours

Historic St Peter's Church in St George may be forced to reduce its opening hours after the Bermuda Tourism Authority axed its $25,000 contribution.

Henry Hayward, senior warden for the St George church and a former Mayor of St George, said the church will likely have to be closed on some days if it cannot find extra cash.

He said: “The church is an important part of our history. When the Unesco representative came to look at the town and the forts, he said St Peter's was worthy of being a World Heritage Site by itself. It's that important.

“The tourism authority talks a lot about creating tourism adventures. Well, we are not Disney Land where we make up things to offer visitors.

“We're a part of Bermuda's history, the oldest Anglican church outside of England with a building dating back to 1612.”

St Peter's is the only Anglican church referred to as “Their Majesties Chappell”, as was found in a very unique 1697 document discovered in 2007, from that very short time period in which the British Empire was jointly ruled by two sovereigns, King William and Queen Mary.

Mr Hayward explained: “We have been opening seven days a week, but if we cannot get the funding ... Well, we have to consider closing it like every other church.”

He said: “We read all the time that Government is looking for money, so it's not a surprise but it is disappointing.

“There were discussions last year as well, but they did come up with $25,000.

“We are still in communication with them, and hopefully something will come out of it.”

Mr Hayward said the church had received financial support to remain open for about 20 years, first from the Bermuda Department of Tourism and later the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

He said: “The funding that has supported us in the past, they have advised us that the funds aren't available this year. Over the years, it has been gradually dropping down.

“There are thousands and thousands of tourists that go through the Church every year, particularly in the summer time. It's not unusual to get 400 or 500 people a day going to visit the church.”

Mr Hayward said the cost to keep the church open seven days a week is about $300,000 per year and the cash from the BTA had played a vital role in covering the cost.

He said: “We have the Friends of St Peter's, who hold events to help raise funds, but there's no where near enough to keep the Church open.

“We are discussing the various possibilities now about what direction we will go in.”

Gillian Outerbridge, parish administrator, said: “Funding has become a little more complex than it used to be.

“Originally in 2009, under Canon W. David Raths, the Department of Tourism provided approximately 50 per cent of the cost of keeping the Church open to visitors. That amounted to $49,000.

“The BTA has a different availability of funding via the ‘Experience' programme whereby an application to provide a new ‘Experience' may apply for funding of up to $25,000. This has enabled St Peter's Church to receive funding each year so far.

“The BTA has since reached out to us to join them to discuss ways and means that they can assist us to formalise our funding in the future with a more balanced funding strategy. We appreciate their concern and assistance.”

A BTA spokesman said the church had applied for support through the Experiences Investment Programme but its application did not contain an experience or a business plan.

The spokesman said: “The Experience Investment Programme is designed to help new experiences for visitors get off the ground or for existing experiences to grow and attract more visitors.

“The application for experience funding received from St Peter's Church did not meet these criteria. Rather, it was to fund the Church's operating budget without any plan to deliver an experience to visitors, nor a business plan.

“This has been communicated to the leadership at St Peter's, along with examples of what other churches are doing around the world to introduce revenue-earning experiences.

“We have also proposed a meeting to discuss these opportunities. It's hoped these examples will inspire new ideas that will allow the programme to say yes to the church.”

The spokesman added: “We appreciate the chapel's historical significance and want to ensure every visitor can enjoy a distinctly Bermudian experience at St Peter's.”

Senior warden of Their Majesty's Chapel, St Peter's: Henry Hayward said the historic church will likely have to be closed on some days if it cannot find extra cash

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Published November 24, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated November 24, 2018 at 8:56 am)

Historic church could cut visiting hours

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