A CHURCH serving a community for well over a century has closed after a “dwindling congregation” saw fewer than 15 people attend weekly.

Longfleet United Reformed Church (URC) in Poole was described as a “very popular” church in the past, but small attendances and an ageing congregation led to its closure in December.

Church officials said they were “deeply saddened” to confirm the closure of the site which has acted as a community space for 129 years, and that the decision was agreed by a “clear majority” of the local membership.

A spokesperson said: “There were around 14 people that made up the congregation at Longfleet URC each Sunday who were increasing in age, and it was felt that with a dwindling congregation they felt it best to bring their witness at Longfleet to an end.

Bournemouth Echo: Longfleet United Reformed Church, Longfleet Road, Poole. Picture: Alwyn Ladell/FlickrLongfleet United Reformed Church, Longfleet Road, Poole. Picture: Alwyn Ladell/Flickr

“Therefore, at a church meeting it was agreed by a clear majority of the local membership that the church would close at the end of 2021. A service to celebrate the life of the church was held on December 19.”

The Church said it was grateful for the generosity and goodwill of members who donated their time at Longfleet URC over the years.

Most current members have joined the nearby Parkstone URC, where they have been made welcome.

The Revd Clare Downing, moderator of the URC Wessex Synod, said: “Longfleet URC has been a very popular church in the past and deciding to close has been a very difficult decision for the church to make. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that churches have to face at times, especially after Covid.

“However, I’m pleased to say that conversations are ongoing between the URC Wessex Synod Trust and another church in the area about using the building for continued worship and witness.”

Bournemouth Echo: Longfleet United Reformed Church used at polling station. Picture: Sally AdamsLongfleet United Reformed Church used at polling station. Picture: Sally Adams

These conversations, however, are at an early stage.

Residents on social media expressed sadness at the closure, with many recalling memories from weddings, christenings, nurseries and after school clubs at the site.

One woman said: “How sad, it's a lovely little building and while I'm not a church goer, it has been a valuable asset to the community, hosting the polling station and other vital contributions.”