West Sussex library drops church-run kids' singalong

(Photo: Unsplash/Jamie Taylor)

Parents have been left angry after a volunteer church group was told it could no longer run the children's singalong in the local library.

The Noah's Ark group, from the King's Church Mid-Sussex, has operated the Rhyme Time event once a month at the Burgess Hill Library, in West Sussex, for the last eight years. 

The nursery rhyme singalong was for children under the age of five and included songs inspired by the Bible.

Noah's Ark's involvement is reportedly to come to an end after the county council informed the group earlier this month that library staff would be taking over and running the event without any religious input instead. 

According to the Mid Sussex Times, the decision followed complaints that the songs sung during the singalong mentioned God. 

Charlie Burrell, a local dad who has been taking his young children to the group for the past four years, told the Daily Mail that he was "horrified" by the news.

"At the playgroup last Thursday they informed the parents that they are no longer allowed to perform at Rhyme time as a couple of songs mention 'God'," he said. 

"I myself was horrified to hear this news as I have enjoyed their Rhyme Time sessions for years with my children and I know so many other parents have too.

"How can an organisation that brings people joy, especially to children, be discriminated against in this way?

"I cannot imagine how any one could find this offensive. All religions and beliefs are rightly celebrated in schools and even on TV channels such as CBeebies and In fact isn't that exactly what a library is for - education?'

Writing on a local Facebook page, he said that he would not be taking his children to the sessions run by the librarians.

Angela Bee, who works in children's ministry at the King's Church Mid-Sussex, commented that the decision to cancel Noah's Ark's involvement came from "further up than the amazing library staff who work there".

"I am currently in conversation with WSCC [West Sussex County Council] to see if we can resolve the situation," she said, adding, "Please continue to support our local library, who are under pressure to keep delivering a brilliant service to the community."

Other locals have vented their frustration on the Facebook page.

Anne Jones said she had complained to West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith. 

"I am furious about this ... We are Christian country yet one person complains and this is the result," she wrote.

"What is going on in Burgess Hill? I have a heavy workload even with the amazing support of our Christian Church members.

"Without the amazing contribution they make, to the homeless, the Food bank, Neighbourly Care, debt advice, Lunch clubs, Mental Health, Carers support, Mother & Toddler groups, many of our residents lives would be much poorer. My work load would be impossible [sic]." 

Rebecca Bourne commented: "What an utter shame, yet again the needs and enjoyment of the many are spoilt by the few. Disappointing that the library would just ban it instead of maybe suggesting to the family that complained that maybe they should just check whose running the rhyme time that week and if they don't like it.... dont come!" 

Mr Burrell added: "I bet it wasn't any of the babies/toddlers complaining as most don't even know what they are singing about.

"They can make their own minds up as they get older like I did, I'm an atheist now."

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council told MailOnline that the change was made in order to bring the Burgess Hill event into line with how other Rhyme Time sessions are run. 

"Rhyme Time sessions are held every week in all West Sussex libraries and are open to everyone including families of any faith or no faith," the spokesman said. 

"In Burgess Hill a partnership was formed with a local faith group some years ago before rhyme time sessions were offered across all libraries.

"We have been very grateful to this group for their support but following feedback from families, we have decided to bring these sessions in line with the other Rhyme Times in our libraries which are led by staff.

"Families can continue to access faith-based activities in community venues and library staff are very happy to help anyone looking for details of where they can join these."