VILLAGERS have been left ‘hurt’ after a church sermon described those opposed to its planning application as 'the enemy'. 

Residents in Chesham Bois were reportedly left “hurt” and “upset” after a controversial sermon held by Wendy Clow, the wife of the Rector of St Leonard’s Church Laurie Clow.

The sermon, which the Free Press has seen a written copy of, referred to the church’s current planning application to redevelop its parish centre on Glebe Way into a new site with a café, day nursery, new rectory, two outbuildings for a prayer room using sustainable materials and parking for up to 90 cars. 

In the sermon dated August 6, Wendy said the congregation is “walking through difficult days” due to “extraordinary opposition” to the parish centre plans, “associated problems” with the Chesham Bois Parish Council and “upset” after the closure of Maryland nursery.

Bucks Free Press: St Leonard's Parish Centre St Leonard's Parish Centre (Image: File image)

She said there were people “perpetuating lies” about the church and “people in our wider community who genuinely hate us.”

These conflicts were all linked to the battle with “the enemy,” who was trying “stop God’s kingdom advancing” and scheming to “destroy the church,” she wrote.

She said God has told the congregation to “go on the offensive” as the “battle for Chesham Bois intensified.”

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Referring to a chapter in the New Testament she told the congregation to “watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.”

A number of residents reached out to the Free Press after they became aware of the sermon, which has since been taken down from the church website.

Katy Mousinho said she was “highly offended” to be painted as the enemy with “such extreme and inflammatory language.”

“All we have been asking for is a smaller development in keeping with the village,” she said.

John Bailey said the words in the sermon were “dangerous” and “hurtful”.

“The majority of residents believes that the proposed overdevelopment threatens the peace of the village, and this sermon rather proves that point. We would welcome a smaller development, but the church has not been prepared to compromise,” he said.

Another resident, who asked not to be named for fear of being vilified, said the sermon “smacks of radicalism” when the conversation was only over the impact of a new building, “not the end of civilisation.”

Dr Selvy Dembinski urged the leaders of the church “to be mindful that we live in a secular, multicultural and peaceful village and that rhetoric for church-goers to rise up and take over Chesham Bois is not acceptable.”

Chesham Bois Parish Council said in a statement it was aware of the sermon being circulated in the community.

 “The Parish Council represents the whole community of Chesham Bois, those of all faiths and none, and will write to St. Leonard’s, the Diocese of Oxford and Archdeacon of Buckingham, to raise concerns about the inflammatory nature of the language and content of St. Leonard’s sermon,” they said.

A spokesperson for the Parochial Church Council said: “We would like to apologise unreservedly for the offence caused to members of our community, by the sermon. The parish church has sat at the heart of the community for over 800 years and we are called to love, bless and pray for everyone in the village.

“It was not the intent of the preacher nor the leadership of St Leonard’s to be inflammatory or offensive. It is common to preach messages based on the rich imagery we find in the Bible, in particular the New Testament, which often includes spiritual warfare and battle metaphors. Sometimes in Scripture more is said than is literally meant in order for the reader to remember it and think deeply on it.

“We understand the planning dispute surrounding our application has been stressful for all concerned. We have listened closely to the community and have significantly reduced the new development plans while keeping the scheme beneficial to all. We long to see the whole community benefit from all the work at St Leonard's.”

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Oxford said the Archdeacon is “responding in similar terms to those who have written to him to complain.”

Since December last year, the plans have attracted 257 letters of objection and 49 letters in support. 

The parish centre application will be submitted for its next stage on Tuesday, October 17

Image of St Leonard's Church courtesy of John Mack via Wikimedia Commons