THE fate of a community church has been sealed after residents voted to close its doors.

The congregation at St Michael's Church in Rampside had been desperately trying to raise funds which would help cover growing maintenance costs and find a use for their empty building.

At a public meeting held on October 8 residents turned up in their droves to vote for the closure of the church after no viable solution had been found.

Jim Webster, church warden said: "No one was angry and I think we had about 50 people turn up, some people just came to listen.

"There was a vote held and I think the majority of people realised we just can't carry on keeping it open.

"There's no enthusiasm to shut it down but that's where we are at."

St Michael's congregation has dwindled over the years with many preferring to stay closer to home, swapping the church for Rampside's village hall.

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Some have taken the decision to hand the keys back to the diocese as a massive blow for the village while others feel it was an inevitable decision.

Mr Webster added: "We don't want to shut down but we haven't got the people.

"There's about half a dozen of us who are working hard and keeping the church going and it's a lot of effort for people who are elderly and don't have a lot of time - and we have no one coming forward with other ideas.

"We are not a historical building association, we are a church and we should be looking after people and our congregation."

Now that the congregation at St Michael's have involved the diocese, a long and complicated legal process will begin.

The arch deacon will now take control of the premises and, like Mr Webster and his group have done, will try to find practical solutions to keep the building open, a process which can take around two years.

If an individual comes forward with an idea, it will be investigated and a formal consultation will take place before plans are submitted.

If an alternative is not found, the building could be sold or demolished.

It had been previously hoped the area could be transformed into a coffee shop or an art space.

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