Tears as Padiham church closes

The Mayor and Mayoress of Padiham join Rev. Geoff Hartley at the final service at the Padiham Baptist Church.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Padiham join Rev. Geoff Hartley at the final service at the Padiham Baptist Church.

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Worshippers said a tearful goodbye to a historic Padiham church as it closed its doors for the final time.

The congregation gathered at the 173-year-old Pendle Street Baptist Church for a farewell service on Sunday.

The church, which was formed in 1840, has been forced to shut over dwindling finances and an ageing congregation.

The Rev. Geoff Hartley led an emotional service with parishioners – some who had been coming to the church for more than 70 years.

Mr Hartley said: “It was very sad to see it go because we have done so much here. We have been very much like a family.

“People enjoyed coming to the church and being part of that family. We have women here in their 80s who have been coming since they were children.

“It has just had to close through lack of money. We were having shortfalls every month and not being able to raise enough money to pay the bills.

“I preached on Sunday that the building is not important to God – it is the people in it that make the church.”

Mr Hartley, who is the church’s second longest-ever serving minister, also held a special service the day before to mark his retirement after more than 12 years at the helm of Pendle Street Baptist Church.

Parishioners past and present joined members of other churches and dignitaries including Mayor of Padiham Coun. Vince Pridden in paying tribute to the long-serving minister.

Mr Hartley, who began his ministry more than 50 year ago, described the occasion as “emotional”.

The 67-year-old said: “This has been the closest-knit family unit I have served in and I have served in many different places.

“I have been a preacher for 52 years – I started taking services when I was 15.”

He was presented with a painting entitled “The Coppice” which he said symbolised regrowth after having cut back.

Mr Hartley, who has been suffering from ME for 27 years, is to spend time with his wife, family and grandchildren.

The church, which is owned by the North West Baptist Association, is to be sold off. The building has been stripped out and cleared ready for sale.