Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

St Germans 'mothball' fears over dwindling followers

St Germans Parish Church
St Germans could be transferred to the Churches Conservation Trust

A dwindling congregation at the former cathedral of Cornwall means the church could be all but "mothballed".

The Diocese of Truro has confirmed that services at St Germans Parish Church could be reduced to a few a year.

Locals claim there is a personality clash between worshippers and parish priest, the Reverend Alec Johnston.

But the diocese said it was inappropriate to bring personal relationships into a discussion about the church's financial viability.

The number of people regularly attending services at the church has fallen over recent years from 50 to about eight.

'Difficult' parish

Diocese spokesman David Watson said with so few people attending services, St Germans had simply become too expensive to maintain.

"It's better to keep it on the straight and narrow and on a factual basis and not allow these personal issues to affect people's judgement," he told BBC News.

He said worshippers at St Germans can choose to attend services at nearby Hessenford, Downderry or Tideford.

The church council has recommended the building is transferred to the Churches Conservation Trust, which means the fabric of the building will be maintained and the churchyard kept open.

It will take many months for the transfer to be completed and Mr Watson said not only will there be full consultation, the diocese will welcome the views of those for and against the proposal.

However some parishioners believe the decline in church-goers is because of comments made by the priest.

"A lady who has worshipped in the church all her life - who is in her 80s - has ended up going to a different church because she was so put out," one unnamed parishioner said.

Rev Johnston told BBC News he did not want to comment on the allegations, but said St Germans had been a difficult parish for both him and other priests.

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