The decision to close Scalford Methodist Church, which has devastated the many community groups who are based there, was taken because it was too expensive to carry out essential repairs on the building and run it cost-effectively, it has now emerged.
We reported on Thursday how parents whose children attend pre-school classes at the New Street church were left reeling by news that it was to be closed at the end of October.
The building, which dates back to the 1870s, also hosts parish council and women’s institute meetings, choir practice, training courses and local election ballots and an alternative venue will also have to be sought for these activites.
The situation is particularly difficult because the village hall is already very well used and has little spare capacity to host community groups.
Rev James Skinner, who holds services at the church, has now released a statement on behalf of the Melton Methodist circuit which reads: “At the March church council Scalford Methodist Church took the decision to close later this year.
“For the last nine months the church members have been discussing the best way forward.
“One of the major issues facing the church was the large amount of money needed to repair the building and to keep it running on a sustainable basis.
“The church is currently contacting all building users to make them aware of the new situation.
“It is sad when a church fellowship decides to close but God’s people are a travelling people and there are times when the nature of the Christian witness has to change and God’s people need to look for other ways and means to continue their witness.”
Parents at say they are devastated by the impending closure of the church, which has hosted the village’s pre-school classes for more than 40 years.
They say the pre-school provides a place where children can develop before easily making the transition to move up to the nearby primary school and a social network for young families, particularly those new to the village.
Anna Marsden, whose children Eva (10), Martha (6) and four-year-old Fleur have all attended the pre-school since she moved with her husband to Scalford nine years ago, said: “The church building is such a huge part of the community.
“It will be an absolute crying shame if the village loses its pre-school because it was a big draw for us in moving here in the first place.
“It’s made a big difference to my children in making them ready for school and to us as a family in terms of settling here through meeting other mums and dads.”
There is now a desperate search for a new home for the pre-school but that could be a challenge with only six months to find somewhere.
Janet Leek, who is chair of the pre-school, said: “At the moment there is nowhere in the village where we can go.
“It means we will have to close in October but we don’t want that to happen.
“We take up to 20 children in the pre-school and we send around 80 per cent of them to the village primary school so there would clearly be a knock-on effect there if we were to close.
“We’ve only just learned the news about the church but parents have been very supportive - I’ve just had a message from a mum who has a child with us and who is absolutely devastated.”
Mrs Leek said the ideal scenario would be to re-locate to somewhere like a new wooden classroom but that could cost up to £30,000.
She is preparing to apply for community grant aid to help pay for it, with the rest having to be provided from fundraising.
“There is a pre-school at Waltham but none in our area,” added Mrs Leek.
“Losing the methodist church building will be a big loss for the community - we will be down to having a school, a village hall, a post office in someone’s house and a pub, which is a lot less than what we had when I moved here 28 years ago.
“We can’t use the village hall because that is used 90 per cent of the time already so we will have to find somewhere else like the many other community groups who meet at the church.”
The pre-school meets there every day from Monday to Thursday and worship is held every Sunday morning at the church, which is part of the Melton Mowbray Methodist Circuit, which also includes Sage Cross and Sandy Lane churches in Melton plus the Great Dalby church.
Scalford Parish Council clerk, Chris Hill, said councillors would, after October, have to hold their meetings in the village hall or return to the primary school, where they met until about 15 months ago.
He said: “It is a suprise to hear the church is closing, to be honest, although I don’t know the ins and outs of it.
“From the parish council’s point of view it’s not the end of the world but it is going to be missed by all sorts of people in the community including, of course the pre-school group.”
The decision to close the church still has to be officially confirmed at various church meetings but the plan is that the final service will be on October 13 at 4pm and the building will not be available to be used by other groups after October 31.