End of an era as village chapel closes its doors

IT has been the anchor of its small seaside community for over 130 years.

But on Saturday, Craster Methodist Chapel, a centre of worship in the village since 1880, will close its doors for the last time.

Dwindling numbers and an ageing congregation have forced the chapel’s closure. Worshippers will fill the church for the final time in a special thanksgiving service on Saturday.

Rev Pauline Fellows, the chapel’s minister since 2006, said it will be a sad day.

“A lot of people have passed on and it’s just become too difficult to maintain,” she said.

“I’m very sad about it, and the last thing I want to do is close the chapel. But if you haven’t got the people, you can’t maintain the church”.

Attendance has fallen to just five or six in recent years, and most worshippers are now in their 80s. But the church has managed to hold regular services until the end, with the final Sunday service held last week.

The chapel’s former congregation has been welcomed by St Peter’s Anglican Church in the village.

Meanwhile, residents of Craster have spoken about their fond memories of the church.

Jim Shaw, 82, has attended services faithfully for over 46 years. “When we first started going it was a proper village church, with a choir, boy scouts, everything,” he said. “We had a good congregation, and one by one they’ve died off. It’s a shame.”

Saturday’s service is open to all and starts at 6pm. It will be a celebration of the church’s history and the role it played in village life.

Rev Fellows hopes that people will come out in force to give the chapel the send-off it deserves.

“It’ll be an intimate service, and it’ll be hard for all of us,” she said.

“But the congregation goes out on a high. They don’t owe any money to anyone and they go out proud people.”