A church in Rayleigh dating back almost a century is now at risk after it was put up for sale by its owners.

The Rayleigh Evangelical Church has been put on the market for £1 million after a combination of financial pressures and an abundance of churches in the town meant owners the Union of Evangelical Churches (UEC) felt they had no option but to sell up.

Built in the 1930’s the church on 36 Eastwood Lane has had no religious services in its buildings for the past three years and despite attempts to reopen it for a congregation once again the covid-19 pandemic got in the way and the building was listed two weeks ago.

Company secretary at UEC Howard Gardner, 73, said there had been expression of interest in the church for the past six months but could not guarantee the building would not be knocked down by the new buyer.  

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He said: “To be honest it was very difficult trying to get the church reopened. We couldn’t gather enough people to make it financially viable and there’s a lot of other busy churches in Rayleigh anyway.

“After trying for three years we thought ‘we can’t do this anymore.’ Covid was the last straw because people weren’t meeting face to face and we had to decide to close it.

He added: “Everything changes and we have to be realistic. There’s not room for spending mega money and trying to drag people into this building.”

Mr Gardner, who commutes from St David’s Close in Colchester to the church twice a week, expected the sale to be wrapped up by the summer with the proceeds sued by the UEC to spend on its more popular churches in Essex and London.

Local reaction expressed concern about the sale, however. Councillor Jack Lawmon, who represents the Wheatley ward where the church is located, did not want to see the building torn down.

He said: “It would be a shame to lose it. We’re under siege and we’ve had enough of flats in the town at the moment, I would like to see a developer take it over as it is and use for some other facility.

“I’m a great believer in trying to keep the town as it was. It’s part of the town, like an old friend, that’s been here a long time.”