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Motion to introduce Christian prayers at Wymondham Town Council is rejected

PUBLISHED: 07:27 03 September 2015 | UPDATED: 09:14 03 September 2015

Wymondham Alive church service. Picture: Barry Rooks

Wymondham Alive church service. Picture: Barry Rooks

Archant

Hopes of introducing Christian prayers at the start of meetings have been rejected by Wymondham councillors.

The idea was put forward by councillor Tony Holden, who said that it would offer a chance to “reflect and prepare” for the evening’s business.

It was met with divided reaction, with several councillors saying that religious prayers do not have a place in meetings and others suggesting a moment of silence as a compromise.

Mr Holden said he was aware it was a “highly emotive subject” and added: “I’ve been asked by several members of the public why this council does not have prayers. A quiet moment of reflection is seen as an opportunity to prepare and focus. We are a Christian 
country.”

His motion was supported by Barry Rooks of the town’s Alive Church, who, during the public speaking section, said that he was “so pleased” to see it on the agenda and that he “could not see why” councillors would refuse it.

The idea of having a moment of quiet reflection rather than a traditional Christian prayer was also mooted.

Councillor Julian Halls said: “If we as a council decide to implement a requirement for prayers, the best I can suggest is that we desist from the use of the word Christian and that we devote a minute’s silence for us all to commune with our God or non-God as the case may be, in a private manner and form which will not embarrass anybody, force nobody to leave and give those who wish to an opportunity to pray.”

Councillor Adam Osborne added: “The council has a neutral basis - if we take on a prayer it could end up being divisive and could open up all sorts of issues.”

Resident Pete Travis warned that, if prayers were introduced, it would be a “backward and highly divisive” decision.

He said: “You were recently elected to serve all citizens of this town, regardless of size, shape, gender, identity, race and religious persuasion. You were elected to serve on a strictly secular body.”

He questioned what sort of prayer would be introduced and asked whether “should every deity, god and goddess followed locally be mentioned?”

Before putting it to the vote, councillor Lee Hornby, acting as temporary chairman for the meeting, said: “I don’t believe that the council is a religious entity and I personally 
wouldn’t support the recommendation.”

Ten councillors voted against the idea, with two in favour and one abstention.

Meanwhile, councillors agreed to give a campaign to boost Wymondham’s lacklustre Christmas lights display a £1,500 grant.

The council had previously agreed to give the funds to Light Up Wymondham at a previous meeting, on the condition that the organisers raised £13,500.

But at the meeting, councillors heard how the sum had not been raised and were asked to decide whether to honour the offer or withdraw it.

Supporting the decision to give the group the funds councillor Doug Underwood said: “If you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never get anywhere.”

Councillor Jack Hornby added: “When I was young we used to go to better Christmas lights in Attleborough and Norwich - it would be nice to be able to wander round the town we live in and see it here.”

Councillors questioned the quality of the lights that would be bought with the funds and suggested that Light Up Wymondham “reduce the quantity and increase the quality”.

It was agreed by a majority of 11 to two that the grant would be honoured.

A working group was formed at the meeting to consider the future of Kett’s Park and whether any improvements could be made.

What do you think of the idea of introducing prayers to council meetings? Email reporter Lauren Cope on lauren.cope@archant.co.uk with your views.

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