A CHURCH that has served a Dales community for 140 years has been forced to close because of a dwindling congregation.

The North Yorkshire Dales Methodist Circuit has made the decision to close Arkengarthdale Methodist Church at Langthwaite, despite attempts made by church members to welcome new people and make service times more convenient.

Reverend Alan Coustick, superintendent minister for the church who will be retiring this summer, said it was a sad day for everyone involved.

He said: “It is with great sadness the trustees on the church council have come to recognise the mission and ministry of this Arkengarthdale Methodist Church is coming to the end of its history.

“Although the circuit has not yet met to decide the fate of the building I would have thought it will be the end of services there.

“We have scheduled services up until Sunday, May 25 – but this does not necessarily mean that is when we will close.”

The church is one of just three Methodist churches left in Arkengarthdale and Swaledale, with the remaining two in Reeth and Gunnerside, and their future is uncertain although not in immediate danger.

And Rev Coustick said although money was tight it was not a major factor of the closure.

“If it was just an issue of money I’m sure we would not be in this position because the community has got behind us in the past with fundraising events,” he said.

“It is more that as well as the local population being much smaller than it was 150 years ago, also we have fewer people coming to church regularly, and that means fewer people involved in leadership and the practical jobs to keep it going.”

“My retirement, though not a reason for it, did put pressure on the decision.”

Rev Coustick added: “The congregation of Arkengarthdale will of course be most welcome at the Reeth chapel as it will be the nearest Methodist church.

“I don’t think Reeth is in the same situation that Arkengarthdale is in but members are also asking questions about its future.”

He added: “We are conscious that Arkengarthdale Methodist Church is not just used for worship – it was a redeveloped in 1986 to move the chapel upstairs and have the ground floor as a community space.

“It is used by groups outside the church – but it is not so much to make it economically viable as a community facility.”

For more information contact the North Yorkshire Methodist Circuit office in Leyburn on 01969-625749 or superintendent@nydalesmeth.org.uk.