Village church finally has to close
By James MortlockFOR years a tiny village Baptist chapel has battled to stay open with only a handful of worshippers.Despite regular attendance figures of six – with often only three people managing to make the weekly Sunday service – the historic church in Bardwell kept its doors firmly open.
By James Mortlock
FOR years a tiny village Baptist chapel has battled to stay open with only a handful of worshippers.
Despite regular attendance figures of six – with often only three people managing to make the weekly Sunday service – the historic church in Bardwell kept its doors firmly open.
But yesterday – after almost 200 years – the little church which was purpose built as a Baptist chapel in 1824 staged its final service.
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The minister, the Rev John Grass, who lives 10 miles away in Wetherden, has been forced to call it a day because his failing sight means he can no longer make the weekly car journey to preach at the church.
Mr Grass took on the church seven years ago to help keep it open after he officially retired, but said he has been forced into standing down because of his health.
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But with no-one to step into his shoes, the Baptist Union has agreed the chapel should shut and the congregation be absorbed into surrounding Baptist chapels or other churches.
Mr Grass said he was sorry to be giving his last service at the church and added: "It's a sad day, but this is something which is happening to village churches across the country. There's nothing strange about it."
He added new disability access laws to be introduced next year would have meant expensive renovations the church could ill afford.
Judy Alderton, who with her husband, Mike, has been worshipping at the chapel for 13 years, said the last service had been a poignant event.
"Naturally, I feel very sad about it because no-one likes to see a church close, but unfortunately it seems to be the way things are going. Quite a few little chapels like this are closing. We just can't get people to come – that's what the problem is," she added.
"People today aren't interested in the spiritual side of things – there are so many other things to arrest people's attention. It's a great shame, we're not just talking about a building with four walls and a roof, we're talking about something spiritual."
Mrs Alderton said yesterday's carol service had also been a celebration of the worship that has gone on at the church for almost 200 years.
The service, however, was tinged with an added sadness. One of the church's oldest and longest serving worshippers, Muriel Tillett, who lives in the village, was away on holiday.
Mrs Alderton, from nearby Stanton, said the 82-year-old had been a member of the congregation since she was a young bride and her late husband, George, who died four years ago, had been the chapel organist for many years.