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United Reformed Church at Chiswell to finally close
A CHURCH on Portland is to close, despite its congregation’s bid to save it.
The United Reformed church was founded in 1825 when the people of Chiswell, the oldest settlement on the island, banded together and converted a barn and stable into a place of worship.
To accommodate the growing congregation, the first chapel was built in 1828 with local people contributing with labour and materials and raising £80 for the project.
The church had flourished under the guidance of the Rev JH Crump, who administered Communion when the new building was opened.
The first pastor appointed to Portland was the Rev Frederick Meadows, who was ordained in the chapel in November 1828 and remained until 1831 and was instrumental in clearing the debt on the building during his ministry.
The next pastor was the Rev C Cannon, who died in office in 1854. In those years the building became too small for the growing congregation.
It was the Rev James Cheney, described in the church records as 'a remarkable, resourceful and skilful man', who was the guiding light for the building which stands in Chiswell today and was opened in 1858.
All debts were cleared by 1876 and a schoolroom and a manse was built.
The church was first known as the Independent Chapel, then the Congregational Church before it became the United Reformed Church in 1972.
Sadly, numbers in the congregation have dropped dramatically and in the past six years a gallant band of seven people, Betty Burden, June Green, Bill Hart, Joan Green, Harold Collinge and Raven and Linda Scott have put all of their energies into trying to keep their beloved church alive, dealing with administration and fund raising.
They have now had to reconcile themselves to defeat and the final service will be held on Sunday, September 27, at 6.30pm conducted by the Rev Bob Damer.
The small faithful band will carry on with fundraising, this time in aid of Portland Royal British Legion and will be holding a monthly jumble sale at the RBL Rooms, Fortuneswell, starting on Wednesday, September 30 at 2pm.
June Green said: “We didn’t want to see our church close and we are very sad.”
Mrs Burden added: “With the lack of support, trying to continue was no longer viable.”
The congregation say they have no idea what may now become of the building.