A FAMILY fun event held at a Basingstoke church on Good Friday divided parishioners after some criticised it as ‘inappropriate’.

St Michael’s Church in the town centre invited families to enjoy a ‘fun-filled morning’ on Good Friday with games, activities, worship and Easter eggs, and to ‘learn about the true meaning of Easter’.

Dozens of families attend the event which culminated in confetti cannons being launched inside the church in celebration.

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However, some parishioners have taken offence to the event, saying they are “dismayed” at it being held on Good Friday.

One, who did not want to be named, said: “Good Friday is the most solemn and sacred day in the church’s calendar. It marks the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ… There they were advertising a fun event which seemed totally inappropriate.

“I’m very happy to see children in the church, but they need to be taught in an appropriate way and one which doesn’t impinge on the routine practice. It’s a question of balance.”

The retired parishioner, who has attended St Michael’s Church for more than 20 years, said the “faithful congregation” were feeling “hurt and dismayed” after being told to go elsewhere to observe the day with traditional vigil and prayer.

A Good Friday service was held at All Saint’s Church, at the Top of Town.

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However, the disgruntled churchgoer said parishioners at St Michael’s have felt pushed out of their own church by a new team of staff who started last year, saying: “The staff team are appearing clumsy and insensitive in their pastoral care for their faithful congregation, who are withdrawing financial support and drifting away.”

He added: “All the people of Basingstoke deserve better than this at the place which houses so many of their memories of family and civic events.”

The pensioner did, however, admit that the new team has successfully attracted a younger generation, adding: “We had 500 people in the church on Easter Sunday. They are trying to attract a younger generation and it was successful and it was a really good service on Easter Day.

“It comes to a stage where I don’t want to be destructive. I want to encourage them on things they are doing right and try and advise them on things they are getting wrong but they don’t want to listen. Others feel the same.”

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The head of communications and engagement at the Diocese of Winchester, Jemima Lewis, said: “The parish had a wonderful Easter weekend and offered a variety of services to cater for different church traditions.

“On Good Friday the team offered a traditional three-hour reflective service at the cross at All Saints’ Church which is in the same parish, and a more informal family service at St Michael’s Church.

“The Basingstoke team were delighted with the response as they received many positive comments and over 750 people engaged with the parish over the Easter weekend, many of whom were at church for the first time ever.

“We fully appreciate that times of change and transition in parishes can be challenging and we remain committed to catering for everyone and making sure all people of Basingstoke feel welcome and included.”