A historic town centre church has been given a five-year reprieve from closure.

The Diocese of Chichester had been planning to make Christ Church, off Portland Road, Worthing, redundant.

But parishioners launched a campaign to save the 19th-century flint landmark, formerly known as the fishermen’s church.

Now they have been given five years to turn the church into a hub of the community again after decades of decline in membership.

The future of Christ Church came into question when the town centre parish of Christ the King was split up.

The Diocese decided that the focus should be on nearby Holy Trinity Church, Shelley Road.

The Rev David Guest, spokesman for the diocese, said: “In 2006 the Archdeacon of Chichester, the Ven Douglas McKittrick, was asked to review the team ministry of Christ the King in Worthing, which had been set up in 1989. His review recommended that the team should be dissolved and this happened in 2008. It also recommended the establishment of two new parishes in this part of the town – St Matthew’s and Holy Trinity with Christ Church.

“Given there were three church buildings in a parish of 7,500 people, and considering the size of the congregation, and the fact that the building was difficult to reorder, the difficult decision was taken that Christ Church should be closed.

“After some discussion, the Diocesan Pastoral Committee decided in October that because of the new structure and the fact that there was a new priest in charge of the parish, the congregation would be given the chance to try to achieve the various goals for Christ Church that had been set out over the past two years.

“The recommendation to close the church has not been removed, but this decision provides an opportunity over the next five years in the new set-up to see if the congregation can form a fresh engagement with the town of Worthing and make good the aims that they have set themselves.”

He said the arrangement would be reviewed annually by the Archdeacon.

Christ Church worshipper Sue Best said: “The immediate threat of closure hanging over Christ Church has been lifted. It has been granted a five-year reprieve.

“We now have five years to save the old parish church of Worthing and hopefully people in Worthing will rally round.”