Rural church in a village hall

17 July 2023

Noel Grabham is a Circuit Steward in the South Kent Circuit, and member and former Property Steward of the Headcorn Church Council.

Helen Hollands is Superintendent Methodist minister in the South Kent circuit and Assistant Chair of the Methodist South-East District.

We asked them to share their story of how moving from a church building into a village hall has helped them shape themselves as a missional community. Though one solution does not fit all, such stories can provide encouragement and inspiration for churches in similar situations.


Noel: Released for mission

Apart from seven years in the 1960's when I was at Slough Central Hall, I have spent my life associated with small rural churches.  I have seen so many disappear and I am passionate about doing all I can to slow the decline. 

I was serving as a Circuit Steward in the former Tunbridge Wells Circuit when Hawkhurst Methodist Church were faced with the need to close their building because they could no longer afford to maintain it. This was a very hard decision, but they were determined to keep their fellowship alive. The leadership team granted them funds to continue to meet for worship and outreach in rented premises.

I believe that the Circuit thought the life expectancy for the arrangement to be three to five years but twelve or more years on Hawkhurst is still part of the Weald of Kent Circuit! An important part of this has been the support of a lay worker for their outreach activities.

Nearly six years ago I moved to Headcorn and transferred to the Methodist Church here. It was clear to me that we could no longer afford the increasing cost of maintenance and would be forced to close the building, so I suggested the Hawkhurst model might be a possible option. 


Helen: Church in the community

Of course people were sad to lose their building but in the end, when it was finally sold, many saw it as a relief. Since moving to the village hall, the church in Headcorn has gained three new attendees. I think some people are more comfortable coming to church in a village hall, perhaps it feels less intimidating.

The village community purchased the previous building from us, and are also beginning to use it for community activities. Most people see this as a good thing.

Within the circuit we have also sold church buildings in Wye and in Appledore, both rural settings. We would encourage other churches to think about what it means to be a Methodist society independent of their buildings and how they might continue to serve their particular communities as the Methodist church based in an alternative space. It really can free up time and energy for missional activities!


If you’re facing difficult decisions about selling church buildings, find more info here

Explore growing as a missional community of merged churches