THE legal process has started to close St Peter’s Church in Eype – but it could still be saved if enough people rally to its support.
The Victorian church is also home to the Eype Centre for the Arts started by the Reverend Ray Shorthouse more than a decade ago with a £250,000 investment from the Walbridge Trust.
However, the congregation at its monthly service barely rises above two or three people.
A public meeting has been called in the church at 3pm on Sunday to see if there is the will in the village to save it.
George Streatfeild, chairman of Symondsbury Parochial Church Council, said the perfect solution would be for people to realise the church was important enough to them to save.
He said: “It is a challenge to the people of Eype – if you want that church you need to use and support it.”
He said although the wheels had been put in motion to close the church nothing was set in stone.
He added: “It is the case of looking into the abyss and saying if we don’t do something, this is what is going to happen.”
“Running a church is a very expensive thing, you have to insure it, to keep it clean, warm and pay your parish share.
“I genuinely hope that on the 12th there is good long-term support for it.
“Supporting a church can be done whether you are a Christian or not.
“Support is three-fold, it’s coming to church, it’s financial and physical input.
“A church is not just a physical entity.
“Chucking money at it isn’t the sole solution.”
Director for the Eype Centre for the Arts Mark Culme-Seymour said: “I expect it will close, as the congregation is down to about two or three.
“Like a lot of Victorian buildings they were always too big for their congregations. My job has been to make money and over the last few years there has only been one year when we haven’t.
“It would be a shame to see such a wonderful venue go.”
The Reverend Jan Delaney said no decision had been made one way or the other. She said: “The meeting on Sunday is for residents of Eype to see if we can find a way forward.
“It is a very small congregation of local residents but money is not the prime thought, it is a viable worshipping community.
“It is hard for everybody when it is so small.”
Residents Bev Chisnall and Janet Allen called Sunday’s meeting and have distributed flyers around the village.
Mrs Allen said: “The process has started but it doesn’t mean to say we can’t stop it. It is a very valuable asset. We really want to assess if there is a desire among the local residents who will put time and effort into it – or whether there isn’t.
“I really feel we need at least a hardcore of 18 or 20 people.”