THERE was a 'wave of emotion' on Sunday as a church held its last service before closing for good.

People from across the country packed into Birtenshaw Methodist Church in Bromley Cross and listened as long-serving members spoke about their memories over the years, including Sunday School and the Christmas Tree Festival.

The service was opened by the Rev Jennifer McKenzie, Superintendent Minister for Bolton Methodist Church, before a number of hymns, prayers and speeches.

Speakers included the church's minister, the Rev Hilary Howarth and former minister, the Rev Gerald Broadbent.

Ms Hilary Howarth said in a message to the congregation: "Today is a bittersweet day for everyone connected with Birtenshaw.

"Sweet because it brings together people who have been part of the church family here for many years and we are so pleased that you have been able to join with us today to celebrate all that has been done in the name of God.

"It is right to celebrate the influence and mission the church has had within the community and the lives of those who have been changed by the love of God found within these walls and beyond in daily ministry and service.

"We shall raise the roof with our praise as we give thanks to God and for all he has done in our lives and in this place.

"It is also a bitter day as we cease to worship in the church that has been important in the lives of so many — you will hear some of their stories during our worship this afternoon.

"It is with sadness and a lot of soul searching that the decision to cease to meet was made, but the life of the church goes on and we shall find our place within the body of Christ as we move on to another place."

As well as current members and trustees, the church was also filled with people who had been involved with the church, but had later moved on.

Trustee Keith Whitter, who has been a part of the church for 45 years, said people came from as far as Cumbria and Kidderminster.

The 70-year-old said: "I think we were all happy. We were pleased and we thought it was fitting.

"It was nice to see there were people who came from all over the place and as far north as Cumbria and we had people from Kidderminster.

"I was worried that it would be like a wake, but I was glad because it was a celebration and I think most people felt the same.

"The whole thing was a wave of emotion but everyone thought it was fitting and it reflected what we tried to do over the years.

"Everyone was glad they were there and one or two did not want to go, understandably. It was nice, but the future starts now."

Birtenshaw Methodist Church in Darwen Road began life in 1875 but it was announced last year that the building and adjacent Bromley Cross Village Hall would close.

This was a result of a dwindling congregation size and lack of people to carry out jobs at the building.