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Tearful farewell to church

jpco-8-1-14 St Leonards Church,  Martyrs Avenue, Langley Green (Pic by Jon Rigby)

jpco-8-1-14 St Leonards Church, Martyrs Avenue, Langley Green (Pic by Jon Rigby)

A tight-knit elderly church congregation had a tearful final service in Langley Green.

More than 70 people attended St Leonard’s Church’s last service on December 29.

Its congregation of around 20 made the “painful” decision to close the church after struggling to find support for their over-tasked rector.

Roy Scarborough, 81, who has been the church warden for nearly 30 years, said: “I’ve been there since 1968 and it’s my second home.

“I put forward shutting it at the end of December and the majority said yes.

“A lot of the group have got ailments and it’s got to the stage that they can’t leave home to go to church.”

Roy has been fighting stomach cancer for six years and seen many old friends he met at the church pass away over the years.

He said: “You’ll never believe it but it was like a family.

“There was a lot of water from their eyes [at the last service].

“You can go to any of the churches and ask what it was like at the St Leonard’s, everybody was for everybody.”

The Reverend Simon Newham, 48, of Rusper Road, had been the team rector at St Leonards for four years.

He was one of two ministers running Ifield Parish’s five churches.

Rev Newham said: “On top of the services and management is the pastoral work - two of us isn’t enough.”

St Leonard’s also faced a £70,000 bill for roof repairs.

Rev Newham and the congregation held regular meetings for two years to help save the church.

He said: “I thank the congregation for taking such a brave and painful decision. It’s a dwindling congregation, some of them have been there since the beginning.

“It’s a lot better for them to be with a healthier congregation and broader age range that can support and encourage them.”

He added: “They are lovely people. When they moved there that church was the heart of that community. They have lots of fond memories of it.”

Roy praised Rev Newham for his efforts trying to save the church.

He said: “We just haven’t got the younger people or the money to put the building back on track.”

 

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