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Final service at Bethel Church

PUBLISHED: 11:39 29 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:24 05 July 2010

It was the end of an era for another part of Lowestoft's fishing heritage, when more than 100 people gathered at the Bethel Church in Lowestoft for its last service yesterday.

It was the end of an era for another part of Lowestoft's fishing heritage, when more than 100 people gathered at the Bethel Church in Lowestoft for its last service yesterday.

The historic church, which has been the place of worship for the town's fishing families for more than a century, is being sold off by the British International Sailors' Society, which owns the building and believes weekly attendances are not high enough for it to be kept open.

The charity gave the church leaders 30 days' notice to quit the premises, or come up with £160,000 to buy the building, and although a good public response raised some of the cash, it was not enough.

Edie Sterry, 92, said she had happy memories of the church.

“I came here for the first time in 1921 when I was five years old,” she said. “My father was the skipper of a smack and the Bethel was the place for his children - the six of us came here and went to Sunday school.”

Mrs Sterry, who braided trawling nets for a living, said she broke away to the Salvation Army but returned to the Bethel, on Battery Green Road, 15 years ago. “I came back to where my roots are,” she said. “I can remember everything, standing up and reciting and singing here. It's a very sad day.”

At the service there was some good news for the congregation, who were told that St Margaret's Church had offered the use of its centre until a permanent venue can be found.

Margaret Durrant, who has played a big role in the church's activities for 35 years, said: “It's a very sad day for Lowestoft as a whole as well as the Christian fellowship, but this is a service of thanksgiving.”

Her husband John led yesterday's service, during which members of the church shared their memories of the building, which has been open for 108 years.

“We have had our hopes raised and then dashed,” he said. “In the end, I'm afraid, we had to lose it.”

He said that services would be held at the new venue at the same times of 10.30am and 6.30pm on Sundays, and at 7.30pm on Wednesdays.

Some furniture from the Bethel will be donated to the Maritime Museum and the War Memorial Museum. Other items which cannot go into storage will be auctioned off or given to the Aid and Assist project.

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