A STRUGGLING West Dorset church has been saved from closure thanks to cash donations and renewed local support.

St Mary's Church in Catherston Leweston was fighting to stay financially afloat and was in danger of closing.

A crisis meeting was held to discuss the problems the church was facing and ways of securing its future, followed by the annual meeting on Monday.

Church leaders told the public meeting that the 19th century church would remain open - for the time being at least.

Churchwarden David Newson said some generous donations mean that there is no longer an immediate threat to its existence.

He said: "We are definitely alright for the remainder of this year and hopefully for next year as well."

Rev Stephen Skinner, Team Rector for the Golden Cap, said the situation has 'turned from 'doom to gloom'.

Rev Skinner said: “We can with confidence say that Catherston church has 'turned the corner' and is looking to remain open for worship.”

He said a change in attitudes and leadership has helped turn things around.

“A change in mood of parishioners to believing that they can pull together to help the church survive,” he said. “The future really lies open in their hands.

“There is a 'can do' attitude, with people beginning to take on new responsibilities in the church, such as the flower arranging, cleaning, music and readers rotas.”

Rev Skinner said a new churchwarden has come forward to help provide leadership with one of the existing wardens, and a 'strong' Parochial Church Council has been elected, with a focus on fundraising and community engagement.

He said: “A very generous anonymous donation has spurred some others to give generously also towards the share we pay the Diocese of Salisbury.

“The local Catherston council are also prepared to offer positive help towards the care of the building, perhaps through a 'Friends of Catherston Church' scheme.”

Rev Skinner said support from himself, the Rural Dean and Deanery Treasurer has been well received.

“They all believe the church has an encouraging future,” he added.

But Rev Skinner has stressed that the church needs more support from younger generations to ensure its long-term future.

“We will do what we can to offer interesting and meaningful services and activities, but such ventures must have attendance from people under the age of 60,” he said.

The financial crisis came after the church had to find around £30,000 to repair the boundary wall around the churchyard, which had become dangerous, and this had used up all of its cash reserves.

As a result it was unable to pay in full its annual share, the levy imposed on every parish to meet the central costs of running the Church of England.

The Salisbury Diocese threatened to close it down but gave church leaders time to try and find a solution.