70 villagers attend public meeting to discuss future of church at risk of closure
By BeckyFeather | Friday, September 21, 2012, 20:41
Around 70 people attended a public meeting last night at a village church near Keynsham that is at risk of closure.
Bel Mooney chairing last night's public meeting to discuss ways that Bitton Church can be kept open
During a brainstorming session at St Mary's in Bitton, suggested uses for the church in addition to worship included a cafe, visiting mobile post office, indoor sports, a venue for wedding receptions and farmers' market, an art gallery and youth club.
There are fears the church may close within the next 10 years because of the ageing congregation and the high costs of running a Grade I listed building - nudging £1,000 a week.
Churches in other parts of the country have opened up their buildings to the community to survive, with post offices operating from some and others hosting childcare centres, youth clubs and cafes.
Last night's meeting was chaired by the writer and broadcaster Bel Mooney, who lives in Bitton.
Architectural historian Kay Ross told the meeting that until the18th and 19th centuries, the nave of a church would have been used as a village hall, for meetings, markets and other community events.
She said that many other churches have successfully adapted their buildings for wider community use and gave the example of Malmesbury Abbey where once a year a skatepark is set up within the 12th century building.