Bainbridge chapel may close if more people don’t join

Under the hammer: Bainbridge Methodist Chapel built in 1836.

The Methodist chapel in Bainbridge could close if more people do not step forward to support it, a meeting was told last night.

The Revd Janet Park, superintendent of the North Yorkshire Dales Circuit of the Methodist Church, said the chapel was “teetering on the edge” with neither the membership, the officers nor the energy to keep it going.

A decision on the future of the building would be taken by members next month: if half a dozen more people became members it might be possible to save it, she said.

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Meanwhile Sycamore Hall, the extra care housing scheme where services have been held more regularly in the past six months, was more accessible and comfortable with as many as 20 to 25 people sometimes attending Sunday services.

“The big problem in the chapel is heating, comfort and steps. Very few from Sycamore come down here to worship because it is such a challenge,” said Mrs Park. 

The meeting heard that of the 18 members of the chapel only six were under 80. Seven were among those who originally worshipped at Askrigg Methodist Chapel until it closed 25 years ago.

Chapel treasurer, John Stirling, said  they had to pay a circuit assessment of over £500 a month which was currently “bleeding us dry.” There was enough money in the funds to pay the assessment until the end of August, the end of the Methodist year, and giving had remained fairly constant this year compared with last. But, he added, the problem was not lack of money but lack of people.

“If the roof fell in I’m sure the community would rally round and find the money. It’s not crumbling buildings that are the problem, it’s crumbling people, and fewer of them willing to take on responsibilities,” he said.

Mr Stirling had been treasurer for 10 or 11 years and had intended to retire three years ago when he was 80. He said Anne Deans, current secretary and former treasurer, had been taking on more and more work, and it was unfair. Mrs Park said there was no-one willing to take over those roles.

Pauline Beckett, circuit financial steward, said members had an obligation to care for one another. “We should not be asking John and Anne to give more and more when they have given so much. At the end of August we have to allow them to stop. If we have no-one to run things at that point we will have to ask if there is another option to closing the building.”

Local preacher Geoff Phillips said the chapel had had only one service in 13 weeks, but closing it would not mean “shutting the place up and walking away.”

“We have good services at Sycamore Hall which are meeting the needs and we would continue as a worshipping community with Aysgarth Chapel and with our Anglican colleagues who have been very supportive,” he said.

The Revd Dave Clark, vicar of the Upper Wensleydale Benefice, said the Anglican church was also facing challenges. “The kingdom of God crosses all boundaries, all parameters, all denominations. We are being called back to an early church model, not talking but doing, and I find that exciting and challenging.  We have to ask how we can help each other.” Keeping buildings going at all costs could be a diversion and distraction from the real work of the church, he said.