THE iconic St Mark’s Church in the heart of Newport could close due to a drop in congregation and funding.

The church council have taken the unusual step of writing to the congregation, warning of the financial pressures the church currently faces, including the fact it is highly unlikely another vicar will replace the current vicar when he retires next year.

The Reverend Andrew Willie will reach retirement age, 70, early next year.

The church is receiving just half the amount it was getting in collections four years ago. Where they once received around £700 a week in collections, the church now gets just £350.

Running and maintaining the building, which was built in 1874, plus the cost of contributions to the diocese (Parish Share) are financially ruining the church.

In the past year, the church has paid £11,500 in repairs, £3,000 for light and heating, £3,000 for insurance and £30,000 to the diocese for the Parish Share.

The church has also struggled with vandalism in the past few years, with an arson attempt and 100-year-old paving stones being stolen last year.

Reverend Willie said: "While it is possible I may be able to carry on with church duties for a few months after retirement age, the Church in Wales is unlikely to want me to stay on past my retirement.

"There is a shortage of incumbent, full-time vicars in the church as it is, so services and pastoral care will probably fall to part-time pastors.

"Similarly, churches everywhere are struggling financially, and the city is over-populated in terms of the amount of Church in Wales churches in Newport.

"On top of all that, the building costs a fortune to maintain. It’s a grade two listed building, so while CADW can tell us not to do any building on the site, we don’t actually receive any funding from them.

"If we have a series of winters as bad as the last few, the church will have to close."

To raise money and boost the congregation, the church is holding a Gift Day and masses on September 26, from 8am to 3.30pm, followed by a service of healing at 7pm.

The Reverend hopes younger people interested in becoming youth workers will come along and volunteer for a new youth team.