Shropshire Star

Hunt's Shropshire carol service re-organised after online threats was 'best supported ever'

A popular Shropshire rural carol service that was moved on police advice following threats towards local clergy went ahead with better support than ever before, say its organisers.

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Clun New Memorial Hall

The service for the United Pack had been due to take place at St George’s Church in Clun in Shropshire on Sunday but was moved after the Diocese of Hereford, which is responsible for the church, said it had decided to cancel the service after comments about a member of the clergy on the internet.

The event was subsequently moved to the village hall, where the organisers say turnout was "reportedly greater than in previous years, despite the threats and worsening weather conditions outside".

The service was led by a clergy person and was attended by both members of the local hunting community and wider rural area more generally.

A spokesperson for the United Pack said: “We were in no doubt that our carol service would go ahead this year. It’s an important part of the festive calendar for many local people here, regardless of whether they follow hunting or not.

"We would never bow down to threats from online bullies but do understand just how unpleasant it can be for anyone targeted.

"This was without doubt the best supported service the United Pack has ever had.

"Attendance was higher than usual, with more newcomers than in previous years, which just reinforces the strength of rural, community spirit and this important time of year. The sermon was wonderfully crafted and the 100 or so people in the congregation all agreed that the rural community in the Welsh Marches was far better off for a joyous and hearty service."

In a statement last week, the diocese said that a member of the church had been the subject of “a number of untruths spread online”. It added: “Based on police advice, we have taken the decision that the service will not go ahead. There have been a number of untruths spread online about a member of our clergy who it was assumed would be leading this service. The decision has been made in the interests of her personal safety.

"Our churches remain open to everyone and offer anyone a welcome, whatever their belief or world view.”

Polly Portwin, director for the Campaign for Hunting at the Countryside Alliance said: “The United Pack are incredibly well regarded in the local community and appreciate just how important their carol service is to so many people.

"While small in numbers, anti-hunt activists are routinely aggressive and often violent towards many within the rural community.

"It cannot be right that these bullies are able to carry out their campaigns of terrorising rural people.

"We urge police across the countryside to take their activity incredibly seriously, both for the safety of the hunting community but also the wider public."