THE long-term future of a historic Wiltshire church is in doubt because the congregation has dwindled in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

Now the parochial church council of St Andrew’s Church in Melksham are exploring alternative community uses for the Grade II listed building.

Reverend Charlie Thomson, the Rector of St Andrew’s Church in Melksham, wrote to parishioners saying Sunday and midweek services have been “paused” while the PCC discerns the next steps.

In his letter, Rev Thomson said: “St Andrew's has faced an increasing number of challenges recently, especially since the Covid pandemic, when the church was closed for services for a year. During that time, the congregation has understandably but sadly dwindled.

“And while a committed core remains, the church's income has reduced, at the same time as running costs have dramatically increased.

“Over the past weeks and months we have explored different options, but regrettably, this has now reached a point where running St Andrew's is no longer financially viable.

“The PCC has therefore taken the difficult decision, on the recommendation of the Archdeacon, to pause Sunday and midweek services at St Andrew's effective this week, while we take time to discern the next steps.

“This decision was not an easy one to make. Since coming to Melksham 18 months ago I've witnessed first-hand the love and loyalty that many in our community have for St Andrew's, and so we know that many who love the church will feel disappointed.

“We are, however, thankful that the PCC, along with St Andrew's LCC, were of one mind, united in the desire to move forward as a team.

“There will be a service at St Andrew's on Easter Sunday at 9am to look forward to, and occasional services at special dates in the future.

“However, we're praying that this would be an opportunity to come together as a parish, and it is the strong hope of the PCC that all St Andrew's members will feel welcome to join with us at St Michael's or St Barnabas.”

Many worshippers now go to services at St Michael’s Church in Melksham, where his team is attracting a younger congregation, including up to 30 young children, on a regular basis.

Rev Thomson says he would welcome proposals from the local community to find an alternative use for St Andrew’s Church, which dates from 1876 but which is in poor condition and suffering from slow decay.