Methodist church in Powys likely to close after 130 years

The future of Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on Garth Road, is set to be decided at an AGM next month, with the church’s fate all but sealed. If closure is recommended by the Methodist Church, the chapel’s doors could close for good in September.

“There will be a recommendation to close the church, with the Methodist Church meeting at the beginning of June,” said Wesley secretary Vivienne Thomas.

“It is almost certain they will dispense with the building. If that happens we expect the church will be closed by the end of September, following a final service.”

County Times: The future of Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on Garth Road, is set to be decided at an AGM next month, with the church’s fate all but sealed. Credit Matt Jones The future of Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on Garth Road, is set to be decided at an AGM next month, with the church’s fate all but sealed. Credit Matt Jones (Image: Matt Jones)

Stories of churches and chapels closing have become commonplace in recent years – due to dwindling and aging memberships – but Vivienne remains defiant; claiming the Builth church will survive.

“As a congregation and as a membership, we’ll still be here and keep going,” she said.

“We as a congregation, despite being small, will survive.”

And while some may see it is as a sad indictment of modern times, Vivienne disagrees.

“Things develop and things change, so it’s not sad,” she said.

“As a landmark it’s an iconic part of the town, no doubt, but if it was really important to people they would be involved.

“The church will continue on in a different way, but the building has become non-essential for church needs.

“The Methodist Church is keen on us being serious about what we’re doing with our assets and being more eco-minded. It’s not used every day. For the amount it’s used the cost of heating the building is quite large.

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“The diocese, when the church modernised, had this vision of providing a place for the community to use, which it has. We had quite a large luncheon club, which now meets in the Jubilee Hall in Llanelwedd. Those members have now gone.

“Quite a few other places have been done up, like the Strand Hall, so there’s not quite the demand today there once was.”

One group who will be looking for a new home is Builth Wells Ladies Choir, who use the church as a weekly practice venue.

The Methodists in the town who followed the teachings of John Wesley first built a chapel on the corner of Castle Street and Castle Road in 1804. With the growth of the town and increase in the church’s popularity, the Wesleyan Methodists decided they needed a larger place of worship. In 1895 the new chapel on Garth Road opened.

Now, nearly 130 years later, the amount of followers and popularity is waning.

County Times: In 1895 the new chapel on Garth Road opened. Credit Matt Jones In 1895 the new chapel on Garth Road opened. Credit Matt Jones (Image: Matt Jones)

However, even without a home, Vivienne insists the church will still go on. “The church membership meets on a Sunday but that can happen elsewhere,” she said, adding that Wesley’s membership still numbers 10 people.

“The congregation is older. Younger people want to access spirituality differently, perhaps outdoor, with the forest church movement for example. Sometimes we meet online.

“It’s not that people aren’t attracted to religion, but they’re not worshipping in traditional ways anymore.”

She heaped praise on former Builth minister Brian Reardon, who kept a lot of the smaller congregations going, by doing most things himself.

Knighton and Presteigne also have Methodist churches and, like Wesley, are part of the Shropshire and Marches circuit.

Vivienne says Builth worshippers will attend services with them but that they can also enjoy fellowship anywhere, such as cafes or community spaces.

With a sale likely inevitable, Vivienne says money raised will probably go towards central funding, where it is needed. “One church in Cardiff is dealing with refugees and asylum seekers, so money will potentially go there or to other places where they’re desperate to have better buildings.”

Llandrindod Wells & Rhayader