A VILLAGE community still reeling from the shock that its church is unsafe for worship is now without a vicar.

The Rev Roland Nicholson and wife Jillian said farewell to St. Nicholas' Church, Sabden, yesterday, after 12 years' service.

His decision to leave was made months before engineers found the church needed £131,000-worth-of-work before it could be opened to the public again. He takes up a position as assistant vicar at St. Chad's Church in Poulton-le-Fylde. Now retired clergy are to be drafted in to lead the worship for St. Nicholas', and another vicar will not be appointed until the future of the church is secured.

Services have been held in the church hall since the closure in December.

St. Nicholas' failed the Church of England's five-year survey into the condition of its churches, which are designed to ensure they are up to safety standards.

The church is a 160-year-old grade two listed building, so English Heritage inspectors have to approve plans before any building work can start.

And added to that, the church is yet to raise cash to contribute to the building fund, so the congregation could be spending a substantial amount of time in worshipping in the hall.

Mr Nicholson, 61, said: "It's doubly sad now because it's like a double whammy for the people, but they will still be able to worship in the church hall, and get in retired clergy for the services.

"I will miss the church and the people, and especially the countryside."

Mr Nicholson's time at the church was celebrated at a farewell service on Sunday and was presented with pictures by local artists, a cheque and a bouquet of flowers for his wife.