Parishoners at a church forced to lock its doors because of its crumbling ceiling need to raise £40,000 to open up again.

For the past 16 months the 130-year-old St John's Church in Greengates has been a no-go area for fear of worshippers being struck by plasterwork.

Weddings, baptisms and funerals have gone elsewhere and weekly services have moved into the pre-fab church hall next door until the health and safety ban can be lifted, said church warden Lynne Johnson.

“Falling plaster has been an on going-problem made worse by all the bad weather we'd had in the last couple of years andwe kept getting it fixed but then the insurers turned round and said we had to get the whole ceiling fixed up and until then it was a health and safety risk – we had no choice but to close the doors.”

Mrs Johnson said while the church hall is cosy for services it is not the same as worshipping in a church.

She said: “People want the grandeur for weddings, the stone font for baptisms and the older people want to have a funeral where they've been a parishoner, and we just can't offer that as it is – not until we've raised all the money.”

Tabletop sales, coffee mornings and ladies nights have raised £5,000 with donations from businesses including Sainsburys, Asda and staff at Natwest who had a charity day and made £1,000 for the cause.

“We are getting good community support but we need more. There's lots more to raise. We want the church to be open again. It's sad really but that's the situation we are in,” said Mrs Johnson Mrs Johnson will be looking into finding grants this year to help get the work done but she said it was not straightforward.

“There are grants for community buildings but when it's a church it's not so easy because it's a space for worship,” she said.

Anyone who would like to donate towards the ceiling repairs and some roofwork can contact Mrs Johnson at the parish office on (01274) 620968.