METHODISTS and Catholics have joined forces to come up with a novel way of solving their church building problems -- build a new one for both faiths.

And the unique project is being watched nationally to see how the two faiths manage to combine and could become a blueprint for other churches in the future.

Central Methodist Church in Carr Road, Nelson, has large Victorian buildings and every time work needs to be carried out it costs £500 just to have the scaffolding erected.

St John's RC Southworth in Every Street, Nelson, is a concrete structure which has not been able to be used for some time because of problems and so the congregation has been meeting in an adjacent centre.

Circuit steward for the Pendle Methodist Churches Sheila Chadwick said: "Both churches were having problems with their buildings because of their size but we both wanted to maintain a Christian presence in the centre of Nelson.

"We have decided to knock down the Methodist buildings and rebuild a new church on the same site for both faiths.

"We will be keeping a little bit of the building back on the site and redecorating it and improving it to be used as a meeting place for the groups that meet at the church while the building work is taking place."

Church services for both faiths will be held at the St John Southworth centre in Every Street.

A 'last supper' was held at the Central Methodist Church attended by 120 people from both faiths when they said farewell to the building.

The Catholic church has a congregation of 50 and the Methodists have 70 members.

Sheila said: "The church is the people and not the buildings. We hope to be able to do more in the community once both churches no longer have to concentrate on the upkeep of their buildings."

Methodist Minister the Rev Geoffrey Peddie and Catholic priest Father John Price have become good friends through the churches amalgamation.

Although they are both Christian faiths, they practice their faith differently and so the Methodists and Catholics will hold separate services in their new church.

They will also come together for Lenten study groups when they will examining Christianity, Methodism and Catholicism and gain a better understanding of each other.

The whole project should take 12 months from demolition and so Sheila said she is hoping the churches will open the doors on a new era of worship early in the New Year of 2003.