A prominent Blackpool church will close at the end of this month after 111 years of being a place of worship.
The North Shore Methodist Church, in Dickson Road, will hold its last service on Sunday before its congregation move on to pastures new.
The Church’s heritage co-ordinator, Diana Holden, says the decision to close the church was hard but it needed to be done.
She said: “We decided inJanuary about the closure. However, for a number of years we have found it very difficult.
“A lot of the church’s congregation has moved away and there is too little of us left to keep carrying on.
“We are a gathered church, as none of our congregation live in the Claremont area but we travel in from across the Fylde.”
The church has 45 members with an average congregation of about 35 people.
Reverend Janet Pybon, who has been the church’s minister for two years, said Blackpool has changed since the church was opened – as well as the people in the area.
She said: “When it was built it was to serve holidaymakers and hoteliers because of the amount of B&B’s and hotels in the area.
“Most of the surrounding area is flats now and Claremont is one of the most deprived areas in Blackpool.
“It is very much a transient area and there are very few worshippers nearby to the church.
“The folk here have made a courageous and sensible decision in closing the church, which wasn’t an easy one to make.
“Even though they are grieving they are being totally realistic.”
The church officially opened on April 24 1907 and was built by S.Butterworth & Sons Ltd.
The Sunday School building opened in 1908 and the cost of the church and school came to £11,000.
It became a Grade II listed building in 1998 for being of special or historical interest.
The church held its final heritage open day last weekend and displayed numerous photographs from events it has held over the years.
The future use of the church, which is owned by the Blackpool Methodist Circuit, is still unclear.
Rev Pybon said: “We are still exploring various options and we are working with ‘Transforming Churches and Opportunities’ to see what we can do.”
Mrs Holden said: “Ideally we would like another worshipping community to take over the church because it’s such a beautiful building and has a lovely aura about it.”
As the church closes, the congregation will move to other methodist churches on the Fylde coast, mainly Layton and New Central.
Yvonne Goulds, the church’s senior steward, explained how methodists tend to wander and have to find the church that suits them best.
The Layton resident, who has been a worshipper at the church for 28 years, said: “I live next to a church but I have always travelled to this one as it felt right for me.
“It will be a very sad day on September 30.”
Some of the notable features in the church include the stained glass windows and the notable barrel shaped roof, which is constructed on the hammerhead principal.
It is supported entirely by the iron columns and none of the weight rests on the walls. The current organ was installed in 1926 and has only been rebuilt once in 1984.
Mrs Holden said: “Our organist, Janice Whittle, was here when I started coming in 1984.
“She will really miss it here and she makes the organ sing although she will always tell you she isn’t an organist.”
Rev Pybon taught religious studies at Queen Mary and King Edwards school (now AKS) for 27 years before leaving to become a minister in 2009.
She says everyone involved with the church will now put the effort in at Layton and New Central Methodist Churches, which she is the area minister for.
She said: “Our God is a God of resurrection, and there cannot be resurrection without death. We don’t class the church closing as failure, it’s time to say its mission is accomplished and move onto something else.”
The future of First Step Community Centre
The Claremont First Step Community Centre has been based at the church for 18 years, and says the closure of the church doesn’t affect it.
A spokesman for the centre said: “We were shocked and sorry to hear of the closure of North Shore Methodist Church.
“Although we have known for many years that the congregation of the church was falling, it was a tremendous shock to us when we were informed a few months ago that the decision to close the church had been made.”
“We have been going strong within the building for the last 18 years and we are very much alove and thriving and we will not be closing at the end of the month.
“We have a good number of years to run in our lease and it is very much business as usual and we are continuing to run our projects in full.”
The centre runs a number of services and clubs for the senior community, children’s projects, as well giving unemployed people access to computers free of charge to help them look for employment.
No plans for emergency homeless shelter
The church has previously been used as an emergency homeless shelter in winter when temperatures drop.
However the council says the closure of the church will not affect any homeless people in Blackpool.
A spokesman for Blackpool Council said: “We are sad to hear about the closure of the church and it has been used in the past for emergency accommodation for homeless people in Blackpool.
“However the church was not used last winter and we had no plans to use it this winter.”