Fears over future of Methodist church

Withycombe Methodist Church

Withycombe Methodist Church - Credit: Google Street View

There are fears Exmouth’s Methodist church in Withycombe could be closed for good after being mothballed since November, with all services and community activities put on hold. 

A decision is due on February 28, but members of the church say their arguments for keeping it open have been ignored and their previously busy and financially healthy church has been allowed to decline. 

In September 2018 all of Exmouth’s Methodist churches were integrated into a single church community, presided over by the Reverend Wayne Grewcock. In July 2019 the Tower Street church was closed, with Revd Grewcock saying the cost of its maintenance and upkeep had forced the decision. The Exmouth Methodist church community is currently split between two sites, Littlemead and Withycombe. Since Withycombe was closed all the activities in its church hall have been transferred to Littlemead, and Withycombe members say they were told they could not access money for repairs, including a new boiler. 

Revd Grewcock told the Journal: “The Withycombe site is in need of considerable modernisation and at the last church council our members voted to suspend services and activities there whilst we consider options.   

“No decisions have been made regarding the long-term future of the building as we are currently consulting with all our members as to the best way forward.” 

Withycombe Church's communion steward Yvonne Crisell said the church had been very active in the community until its closure. Members took part in Water Aid, held monthly coffee mornings and hosted lunches to raise money for charity. A local organisation had been hoping to start a project for vulnerable people in the church garden. The church hall was let almost every day, making a good income from the fees. 

She said: “It all seems so illogical not to get Withycombe serviceable. The church is within the heart of the village, there are shops on the road, schools nearby, and the footfall past its doors must be hundreds if not thousands every day.” 

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She said the church members were told in December that Withycombe could become independent if they could fill all the positions needed to run it themselves – but Littlemead had previously shared these responsibilities and it would not be feasible for Withycombe church to handle them without any help.