MOVES to close St Peter’s Church in Eype have been halted to see if support pledged at crisis talks on Sunday convert to more than just words.
Around 50 people attended the meeting and there are now plans to start a Friends of St Peter’s group to help keep the large Victorian church going.
The church is also home to the Eype Centre for the Arts started by the Rev Ray Shorthouse more than a decade ago with a £250,000 investment from the Walbridge Trust.
The suggestion that the church was no longer viable stemmed from the declining congregation – there are barely more than two people at its monthly service.
Church supporter Janet Allen said: “There was a lot of support from the community, and the challenge now is to convert that into attendance at regular church services, and to form a group committed to helping the building survive – in effect, the Friends of St Peter’s.
“There is no immediate danger of St Peter’s closing – the process has been stopped for the moment. However, there is no room for complacency. We must gather together and work to prevent it being restarted.
“This means commitment to support and attend church services at St Peter’s, to support the Eype Centre for the Arts, and to arrange and support other community events, using the excellent space, acoustics and light available. I hope people are prepared to take part, and help to keep the building as a vibrant, living and breathing space for the community.”
She said assurances have been given that whatever happens to the building the graveyard will remain consecrated.
Vicar and chairman of Symondsbury Parochial Church Council said: “It was a positive meeting, there were lots of good ideas on how we can work together to re-invigorate the life of the church.
“I was very cheered by that. There never has been a decision to close but it is all part of the process and finding a better way forward is also part of the process and this is a good start.”
Symondsbury PCC treasurer George Streatfeild said the idea to start a friends of the church group was excellent.
He said: “The general feeling was that there seemed to be a good number of people who seemed to be interested in getting involved. There was a strong feeling that people wanted to keep the church going.”
He said there was no timescale set on how long supporters would be given to prove their enthusiasm with action.
He added: “But people have to realise they have to actually get involved in the parish in a bigger way. I don’t like to drive people into a corner, setting a timescale would be foolish but people need to really back up their words with actions.”
He said he would be happy to support and help people getting involved.