MORE than 90 worshippers gathered in sadness to bid farewell to their rural church.

Dwindling congregation numbers and the need for costly repairs have led to the closure of St Paul's at Lindale, near Grange-over-Sands.

The final service took place on Friday evening to coincide with the feast day of St Paul's conversion, said the Rev George Wilson, who led the occasion.

"We felt well supported at a difficult time in the life of the church," he told the Gazette. "Some people had come from away because they've had lots of holidays here and the church had become special to them.

He explained: "For the handful of people who've been involved in Lindale over the years, it was quite a tearful event.

"Nobody wanted it to shut, the diocese didn't want it to shut, but the PCC (parochial church council) had got to the point where they couldn't cope unless more people come to help them."

The decision came after the average weekly congregation fell to between 12 and 15, said the Diocese of Carlisle. A quinquennial - a building inspection held every five years - had also found the need for major renovations which church funds could not meet.

Rev Wilson said the estimated repair bill was upwards of £50,000.

Paying tribute to the handful of villagers on the PCC, he said: "They have worked so hard over recent years to try and keep things going.

"They were so so sad when it came for them to have to declare that it just wasn't viable any more. They did everything they could for as long as they could."

The Rev Jim Bruce, Cartmel Peninsula team rector, preached at Friday's service. Presiding over communion was the Venerable Vernon Ross, archdeacon of Westmorland and Furness.

Hymns included Longing for Light, a favourite among Lindale's worshippers, and Lord, for the Years.

Afterwards, memories were shared over wine and canapés, such as the special "snowdrop service" one woman recalled from childhood, and a couple whose two children were baptised at Lindale.

The Diocese of Carlisle is to look at future uses for the church, which was originally built in 1828. The churchyard - home to the classical monument of the church's architect, Kendal's renowned George Webster - will remain open.

The diocese said: "Our prayer is that those who have worshipped at St Paul’s walk on with confidence in their faith journeys. They will be further supported through the creation of a new parish - St Paul’s Grange and Lindale - and exploration of other venues for Christian worship.

"This brings to six the total number of Anglican churches closed in recent years: Holy Trinity West Seaton in 2016, St John’s Cleator Moor, St Leonard’s Warwick-on-Eden, St Paul’s Causewayhead and St Matthew’s Barrow in 2017 and Lindale in 2019."