A church which has served its community for 175 years is to close.
A dwindling congregation and lack of “human resources” have led to the “difficult” decision to shut Borstal Baptist Church at the end of the year.
The place of worship in the heart of the village has supported a wide range of youth groups including, in recent years, Medway Food Bank.
An announcement on social media read: “The fellowship at Borstal Baptist Church is grateful for all that God has done over many years through the church here in Borstal.
“As well as our various church services at Christmas, Easter, harvest and all the Sundays in between, over the decades we have joined with you in running a huge number of other events - playgroups and parent and toddler groups, Girls’ Brigade and Boys’ Brigade, Covenanters, and Kingsquad, and youth groups.
“We’ve also run holiday clubs and been part of the village community fun days.
“Alongside that, we have been fortunate enough to help support Medway Foodbank and, latterly, the Pilgrim Pantry.
“And, of course, we have for a number of years run the Friendly Bean Community Coffee Shop.
“But, as the Bible tells us: ‘There is a time for everything’, and a ‘season for every activity under the heavens’.
“At a recent meeting of church members, the fellowship came to the decision that it was time for the church to close and this will happen on December 31, 2023.
“Whilst this is, of course, a source of sadness to us, we want to honour all that has happened here since the church first opened. And so we invite you all to join us at 11am on Christmas Eve for our final Family Service.”
The church was started in 1849 by Mr Tong, an agricultural labourer, and his wife Caroline from their cottage in Borstal Street where they brought up six children.
There was no parish church in Borstal until 1879 so instead Mrs Tong would invite children to Sunday morning school in her kitchen.
It was in that year that plans to build The Institute, now Borstal Baptist Church, were announced with a billiard room and caretaker’s flat downstairs and hall upstairs for village events.
In 1881 Mrs Tong moved her Sunday school and evening service into the building in Borstal Street.
Through the years one event captured the attention of the whole village when children would be given either a parasol or a flag and march behind the Sunday School banner led by a band.
Residents turned out to see them go up the street to the paper shop and turn left down an avenue of trees into the meadow at the bottom.
All afternoon there were races, maypole dancing, stalls and entertainment by the Scout troop in the meadow.
With no unemployment benefit or social security, The Sick Club, which ran up until 1966, came into its own.
Members paid a weekly subscription of 6 pence or 9 pence and when somebody fell ill, they would receive 10 or 15 shillings a week for 10 weeks and then half that amount for another 10 weeks.
At Christmas, surplus funds were shared with the unemployed adults.
Suzanne Rogers, church secretary and elder, described the decision to shut as a “very difficult time” and was too upset to talk about its demise.
She would only say it was “an ageing congregation and lack of human resources” were to blame for the closure.