The Anglican Bishop of Dunedin yesterday gave parishioners in Hampden a glimmer of hope Sunday services could resume at the town's 131-year-old church.
Regular Sunday services ceased at St Stephen's Church last Sunday, but Bishop Kelvin Wright said the church had been "mothballed rather than closed".
"We did have to have all our buildings inspected for earthquakes and we are not sure which of them will be usable.
"The congregation had diminished in size, so it makes sense for the Hampden people and the Palmerston people to pray together."
He said there was still a "possibility" services could resume once earthquake assessments had been made, and added the diocese was not planning to "get rid" of the church.
Services at the Historic Places Trust category 1-listed Kotahitanga Church in Moeraki had also ceased because of a declining congregation, he said.
"That building is one that is not actually ours, but we have so few people going there now, we will not be holding Anglican services there."
The St Stephen's congregation had fallen to just four or five parishioners, while just two or three people had attended services at Kotahitanga, he said.
However, St Stephen's parishioner Jan Wheeler said it had been a sad day to see an end to Sunday worship at the church, which had catered to the town's spiritual needs for the past 131 years.
"It is just going to hold a couple of services, like the pet service, but there are no regular services."
Although the church hall was still available for community use, parishioners now had to travel to Palmerston for Sunday services, she said.
Groundskeeper Bill McKerrow said although he continued to mow the lawns at both churches, as he had for the past 10 years, he was disappointed they would no longer be used regularly.
"It's just a sign of the times but it's a bit sad.
"They are closed for regular services, although they will open for special occasions in the meantime, but I don't think they should have closed them."
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