COMMUNITIES are being urged to show their support as a West Dorset church faces closure and several others are struggling financially.
Churches in the Golden Cap team are fighting to stay afloat amid dwindling congregations and many have been forced to dip into their reserves to pay their way.
The situation has become so desperate at St Mary’s in Catherston Leweston that it is now in danger of closing.
A crisis meeting will be held next week to discuss the problems the church is facing and ways of securing its future.
Team Rector the Rev Stephen Skinner said the financial struggles across the 13 churches in his team are a great worry to him.
He said: “Many of our churches are struggling financially in their financial affairs. “The situation deteriorated in 2012 and the majority of our churches had to call upon various reserves to pay their way.
“Some have struggled badly to pay the full amount requested to the diocese for a ‘fairer share’.
“This situation worries me greatly.”
Rev Skinner said the situation has come to a head at Catherston Leweston because it has hardly any reserves to draw on.
“Catherston church is at considerable risk at the moment,” he said.
“We would be happy for people to come along to the public meeting to hear about the situation, but most importantly that people concerned are prepared not just to say: ‘Isn’t that awful?’ but for people to say: ‘How can we help?’ “It’s a time for action.
“The diocese is giving us time to get things sorted out. There’s no immediate threat but we definitely need to be running in the right direction.” Rev Skinner said across the team, fewer people are attending services and it is ‘extremely difficult’ to attract younger people.
But churches are keen to get more involved in the communities and work in partnership with local organisations.
He said: “People do use the church for funerals, weddings and Christenings but people who use the church for those services are not returning until the next time they want to use it for those reasons.
“We’re not critical of that, but obviously the church can’t run on those services alone.
“We are trying across the Golden Cap team to have more of the kinds of services or events that will appeal to a greater range of people.
“We definitely want to improve our involvement in the community.”
Rev Skinner said this could include messy church sessions, lunch clubs and open air services.
“We are doing a certain amount but it needs people who are prepared to step up to the plate and offer help on these things,” Rev Skinner said.
The meeting at Catherston Leweston will be held in the church on Tuesday, April 16 at 7.30pm and wine and cheese will be provided.
Rev Skinner said the event aims to generate ideas but decisions on the church’s future would not be made until the annual meeting on April 29.