STRATTON Green Baptist Church hopes to extend its ministry through Swindon with the help of a new steering group.

Earlier this week an announcement from the church – which is more than 250 years old – implied that it would close after hosting its final service on Sunday July 6 at 10.30am.

But rather than closing, the church has handed over the management to a new steering group which will help to develop the ministry.
The church will only “close” in its current function.

Nigel Coles, a senior regional minister at the West of England Baptist Association, said decisions are taken by the entire congregation in the Baptist Church, not by any individual minister.

He said: “In a meeting held on June 6 the congregation at Stratton Green took the unanimous decision to hand over responsibility for their resources and management to a steering group comprised of Baptists from throughout Swindon and the whole of the south west.

“The decision was made in order that the church could better service the town in the long run, rather than rely on the work of a small and quite elderly congregation.”

The existing congregation may continue to meet and worship at the Stratton Green Church in Swindon Road, but as yet no long term decisions have been made as to the building itself.

Nigel said: “I think it’s a very brave decision because a really small and relatively elderly congregation have had to accept that in order to be more beneficial to the town of Swindon they need to accept the advice and guidance of a larger steering group.

“I think it’s a very brave and positive decision.

“With the plans for 22,000 more homes in the town it will also mean they can better service the whole community of the town with the help of a larger body.”

Confusion over whether or not the church would close surfaced on Monday after an announcement from the church in Swindon Road said July6  would be their last service.

The announcement read: “Important Notice: We are sad to say after 263 years Stratton Green Baptist Church is to close.
“Our Final Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving will be held on Sunday 6 July 2014 at 10.30am.”

The news came as a shock to local councillors and residents, Mayor Teresa Page, who represents Upper Stratton and Penhill, and ward councillor Joe Tray.