A church which has been the focal point of a village for more than 150 years could close its doors for good because of falling congregation numbers.

Leaders of St Paul's Church in Causewayhead, near Silloth, have made the decision to cease operations and the final service will be held on Sunday, May 15 - subject to church bosses sanctioning the move.

The request to declare the facility redundant will now be subject to an informal consultation process, with the final decision being made by the Church Commissioners for England.

Once the doors are closed members will be able to attend services at Christ Church in Silloth, which is the sister church of St Paul's.

Reverend Canon Bryan Rothwell, who has run both churches for about four-and-a-half years, said: "Over recent years it has become more difficult to maintain two buildings in the parish, it is no longer viable because of the number of people attending and the finances involved.

"It's been something that has been discussed over many years with the congregation and we have come to the decision that now was the right time to say goodbye to the church.

"Everyone is saddened without question, in particular the people who have been regular worshipers over the years. There's lots of emotional contact with the building going back many years."

An event to celebrate the role of the church in the parish will be on held on the day of the final service.

A spokesman from the Diocese of Carlisle said: "The diocese understands this has been a difficult decision for PCC members and the congregation to reach, but it is one based on congregation numbers and the necessary work which would be needed in order to maintain the building.

"St Paul’s and Christ Church were united as one parish in the 1940s and in recent years it has become more evident that to continue to maintain two church buildings in the one parish has become impractical. 

"To focus the resources of time, finance and people on one church building will enable the church to sustain the mission and ministry in the parish more effectively."

If the Church Commissioners agree to make the church redundant then the local diocese will take over responsibility for the building and try and find alternative usage or potentially sell it.

It is not the only place of worship in north Cumbria to suffer.

A tiny village chapel - which has not seen services or marriages for a decade - could be turned into a home.

Church officials are proposing to sell Kirkby Thore Methodist Church, which was built about 200 years ago.

They are hoping if the go-ahead is given from Eden Council to then sell the building with planning permission for conversion into a dwelling.

Rev Phil Dew, superintendent Methodist Minister for the Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and Tebay circuit, said church services and marriages had not taken place at the chapel for upwards of 10 years.

"The congregation has now dispersed with some attending services at Bolton and others at Appleby and Dufton, and our marriage registration has now been cancelled," said Mr Dew.

He added the chapel, which houses a room where services were previously held, an ancilliary area, kitchen and toilet, had latterly been used by the local community for children's clubs.  

"But there is a village hall and residents' felt that this should be used instead," Mr Dew continued.

"The chapel is costing us money to insure and maintain, and we felt it was not being used sufficiently for it to be kept as a building in the community.  

"We hope to use the money from the proposed sale for our other chapels that are a viable option."