Church closes its doors after 82 years
A BISHOPSWORTH church which has served the local community for 82 years has closed.
A special service of thanksgiving was held yesterday to mark the life and witness of Bishopsworth United Reformed Church.
The church, which opened in 1828, was originally based on the site of Bishopsworth swimming pool but moved to its new location at Church Road in 1930 after it outgrew the premises.
At its peak the church, built by WJ Kew, had a congregation of more than 100 but over the years this has started to dwindle. Now the weekly church service on a Sunday only attracts a congregation of around a dozen.
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Bosses at the United Reformed Church Synod were forced to take the painful decision to close the church because of the increasing running costs of the building.
Each year it costs around £12,000 to run the church with money coming in from the congregation and charges from hiring out the building to community groups and playgroups. But the church is now in need of costly repairs, including replacement of its electrics and urgent work to the roof.
The service, attended by around 100 people, featured readings and hymns plus prayers of thanksgiving.
Members of the church, including Christine Lillington from the Sunday School and Junior Church, Viv Kew and Alan Hedges spoke about their memories. Synod moderator, Reverend David Grosh-Miller, said: "It is sad when a church has to close. But we had reached a point when there were not enough people here on a Sunday to justify or cover the costs of running and maintaining the building."
The church has not had its own reverend for a number of years, with services, pastoral care and the running of the building being led by Sue Bevan.
Mrs Bevan, 63, said: "It's been a very hard day because the church is so precious to us. But we cannot justify putting tens of thousands of pounds into the building and do not want to end up in debt."
Beryl Chappell, at 85, is one of the oldest members of the congregation.
Mrs Chappell joined the church when she was just 11 years old and remembers sitting in the pews at a Sunday service in 1939 when the news was announced that Britain was at war.
Mrs Chappell, who has helped arrange the flowers in the church for the last several years, said: "I can remember years ago when the church was full at a Sunday service.
"I feel very sad the church has closed as it has been a special place to me right throughout my life."
Members of the congregation and church supporters enjoyed a special tea in the hall following the service.
The church will now be sold by the Synod with the remaining congregation moving to Withywood to continue their worship.