Church cancels plan to host Worcester Park Islamic community centre consultation due to ‘anxiety’

St Mary's ChurchA church will no longer hold a planned meeting for an Islamic community centre on their premises after it caused a “fair degree of anxiety”.

Reverend Andy Cain of St Mary’s Church in Cuddington said earlier this year he wanted to be “accessible to all faiths and none”. The church was due to hold meetings for a public consultation on plans to turn the abandoned Worcester Park Tavern into an Islamic community centre. However the meetings will now be held in the former pub itself.

Rev Andy Cain said: “St Mary’s Church is keen to support the local community. However, it’s clear from the people that have contacted me that this consultation has caused a fair degree of anxiety and as our primary concern is serving the local community we’ve decided not to host the meeting. If this is something that can have a negative impact on the community it’s not worth us getting involved.”

Plans to turn the abandoned pub into a centre for the South West London Ismaili Community have sparked a fierce debate. The group is launching a public consultation on proposals to turn the former public house into a centre for activities, a library and an area for meditation and spiritual practices.

Many hope that the scheme will rejuvenate the building which has been left abandoned and blighted by squatters. However, others have voiced their opposition to it, arguing the Ismaili community is small in Worcester Park and the community centre could “drive away” residents.

The Ismaili community, from the Shia branch of Islam, are different to the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’at group which had its second application for a mosque at the old bank chambers in Green Lane rejected two weeks ago. The Ismaili Centre in South Kensington was the first centre to be specially designed and built for Ismailis in the Western world and was inaugurated in 1985 by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The events will be held in the Worcester Park Tavern in Park Terrace on Friday, October 11, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm and on Saturday, October 12, from 10am to 4.30pm.

Surrey Comet, 9 October 2013

One objection by opponents of the pub conversion was that it was inappropriate for a Christian church to host a consultation meeting for a Muslim organisation. The “Save the Worcester Park Tavern” Facebook page (which has provided a platform for racists and fascists to denounce the proposed development) expressed this view:

Save the Worcester Park Tavern objects to consultation meeting in church

The withdrawal of the offer to host the consultation in St Mary’s Church has certainly pleased some people:

New Daily Patriot applauds cancellation of consultation in church