WORSHIPPERS at an Upper Gornal church are praying for a miracle after being left facing a possible repair bill of almost £500,000.

St Peter's Church in Kent Street has fallen into serious deterioration and now faces closure after nearly 180 years of existence.

Such is the size of the repair bill that the current congregation cannot afford to pay it.

A public meeting has been called for next month to discuss St Peter's future.

Team rector, the Reverend Guy Hewlett admitted the situation felt impossible.

He said: "It's not a good position. The news is likely to come as a shock to many locally and the church community is incredibly sad to be faced with this.

"The public meeting will give people the opportunity to hear what is happening to the church and the prospects for the future. We hope as many people as possible will be able to come along.

"I realise that some people in Upper Gornal will be devastated by the news as the church holds so many memories for them.

"People will have attended baptisms, weddings and funerals over the years at the church and they will grieve over the situation we now find ourselves in.

"I've only been in my post for the past eight months, but this situation has been coming for a period of time.

"At present, there is no heating in the church and during the winter, we had to hold worship in the church hall, which is thankfully in a better condition.

"But there are many issues facing the church building relating to the stonework, while the roof also needs replacing.

"There are further issues which are required to bring the church up to modern standards. At the moment, we have no toilets in the church, although we do have toilets in the church hall, which may be a possibility moving forward.

"Lots of people feel very connected to St Peter's which is an active church within the community and people are very kind-hearted and want to give.

"But a few pounds here and a few pounds there isn't going to resolve the situation we find ourselves in.

"We've looked at the possibility of obtaining grants, but we're not nationally listed with English Heritage, so the grants we would be eligible for are so small that it wouldn't solve the situation.

"It is such a huge sum of money that is required and it is important that the community need to know the position we are in."

The public meeting will take place in the church hall on Saturday, June 9 starting at noon when all are welcome to attend.

In addition to staging weddings, baptisms and funerals, St Peter's is also home to a number of uniformed groups while social events take place in the church hall.

But if the decision is made to close the church, the local clergy team have vowed to continue ministering within the community in some form.