A WIRRAL church which, when facing closure put its faith in God, has been given a new lease of life.

The congregation of St Paul's Parish Church, Wallasey, which is one of the oldest buildings in the area, was told two years ago it was about to close.

The 155-year-old church, known as the Gateway to Wallasey because of its position above Seacombe Ferry, faced dwindling numbers of people attending services and steeply rising costs for its upkeep.

But now the church, which has still not missed one service since previous minister Rev Christopher Kemp left two years ago, has been told they will get a new vicar later this year.

John Riddiough, a lay reader who has played a key part in keeping the church going over the last two years, said they have also been given money by the Diocese of Chester to carry out a survey to improve the church's involvement with the local community.

The determination of a handful of people, including Mr Riddiough who has taken many of the services, warden Louisa Sheen, and deputy warden Reg Taylor, has kept the church alive. Retired members of the clergy have provided services such as baptisms, weddings and funerals.

They have also been meeting the local council, other churches and community groups in the area to find ways of making better use of the church building.

It is considered one of the most historic churches in the North West, but former vicar Rev Christopher Kemp felt the local community could not save it, and a "six figure sum" would be needed to keep the building open. Mr Riddiough said: "The congregation was small, and it is still small. The idea at the time was to close, but the Church Council said that was not on.

"We spent some time talking about it, and asked about doing a feasibility study which the diocese funded.

"We have been trying to identify our strengths and weaknesses, assets and liabilities, and what we should do with the building."

The church was opened in 1847 by the Bishop of Chester, Rt Rev John Bird Sumner, who became Archbishop of Canterbury the following year. Its 120ft spire was completed in 1849. The Victorian mock 13th-century building has been at the heart of the area ever since.

It was sited high above Seacombe ferry terminal and for years it has been a navigation aid to river traffic, becoming known as the Sailors' Church..

Its proximity to the terminal, where it sits on the Church Road roundabout, also earned it the title Gateway to Wallasey.

The church volunteers will now be sending out questionnaires to 2,800 households in the area asking them what they want from the church, and how it can play a more important and useful role in the lives.

Deputy warden Reg Taylor, who has become involved with the church after moving back to the area when he retired, said they had not missed one service, despite some people thinking the church had actually closed.

He said: "It's not been easy, but it has been a real team effort, and we could not have managed without the help of the retired clergy. "There is one who is well into his 80s and recently celebrated 60 years in the ministry who regularly takes services."

CLouisa Sheen added: "It's been very hard work, particularly for John."