UK's only Mennonite Christian church shuts for Sunday worship

The Mennonites will no longer worship on Sundays. They had been meeting at Westbury Baptist Church on Sunday afternoons near Turnpike Lane, north LondonRuth Gledhill

The Mennonite church in the UK has shut its doors to Sunday worship after numbers dwindled to the point where the church can no longer keep going.

Fewer than 10 now turn up for services, compared to four times as many in the 1990s, the Guardian reports.

Members had been meeting in Westbury Avenue Baptist Church in north London after the London Mennonite Centre closed in 2011.

In a letter posted online, elder Sean Gardiner says that following the centre closure and the loss of many members, including some untimely deaths, numbers are now so small "as to render church structures and activities unsustainable".

A group of Mennonites from Pennsylvania sing hymns in the Times Square subway station in New York in 2014. Mennonites come from the same Anabaptist tradition as the Amish but are different in the way they relate to the modern world.Reuters

The issue is not financial but rather one of numbers, he says. The church has found it hard to fill its elder positions. "As the remaining elder I cannot continue indefinitely in this role."

He lists the new ideas that were tried to boost attendance, including a monthly, alternative outdoors Walking Church worship service and a central London-based Radical Routes study group. But these attracted only a few visitors. Sunday worship was simplified, and a "bring and share" monthly afternoon meal introduced.

"Following a dedicated day in mid-November 2015 to consider the church's future, members agreed we could no longer sustain our usual pattern of community life, despite a perceived obligation to maintain the UK's only fully functioning, English-speaking, Mennonite church," Gardiner said.

Remaining members are now exploring the possibility of establishing a virtual online community after Easter 2016 with a pattern of shared devotional life and occasional meetings.