Fears for future as Goldenhill church's congregation slumps to just four people
ONE of Stoke-on-Trent's landmark churches looks set to close because of falling attendances.
St John the Evangelist's has towered over Goldenhill, the highest part of the Potteries, for more than 170 years.
But the C of E church's regular congregation now stands at just four – prompting the Diocese of Lichfield to review the listed building's future use.
While a final decision has yet to be taken, the church in High Street could be leased to another Christian organisation, or possibly refurbished into living or business accommodation.
Goldenhill residents expressed their disappointment at its possible closure at a recent public meeting.
But Father John Stather, vicar for the Goldenhill and Tunstall parish, said the diocese had to be realistic.
He said: "I was involved in the unsuccessful campaign to save Tunstall Pool, so I know that if people want to keep something, they need to use it.
"There are some who like having a church there for when they need it for things like baptisms, but they won't come and support it every week.
"The only money the church gets is from the people who come to services. So a church with a congregation of four is just not sustainable.
"There used to be four churches in Tunstall, but that was unsustainable, and so since the 1960s they have been closed, and there is only one left now."
Father Stather said further consultations would be carried out before the diocese made any decision on the church's future.
But he insisted that whatever happened to St John the Evangelist, services would continue at its sister church, Christ Church in Tunstall.
The church of St John the Evangelist was built between 1840 and 1841, from brick and in the Norman style.
A vestry was added in 1880 but replaced in 1891, and in 1930 the church's graveyard was extended.
During the recent public meeting on the future of the church, a number of possible future uses were suggested. These included leasing the building to a Korean Christian church – which is on the look out for a base in the West Midlands – or converting it into apartments.
Tom Simpson, secretary of Sandyford and Goldenhill Residents' Association, said it was important such an iconic building was put to good use.
He said: "I think everybody in Goldenhill is upset at the church closing, but I think we are realistic about the situation. The fact is it just doesn't have much of a congregation any more.
"It is a landmark building. Goldenhill is the highest part of Stoke-on-Trent, and so you can see the church for miles around. It's been there for nearly 200 years as well.
"I think that I would prefer to see the building used by another Christian group."