A start will be made this summer on stopping the rot at the Wesleyan Chapel on Station Road, opposite Horrabridge village hall.
Local builder Jonathan Case is contracted to make weather-proofing repairs while the Methodist Church gathers the funding for the rest of the renovation and conversion promised six months ago.
The church will also be advertising shortly for a part-time mission worker for the village, to start work in September, assessing local needs and wants before final decisions are made on the shape of the interior.
A meeting room with a play area for children and a daytime cafe are currently top of the working party’s wish list for the chapel itself. And a Tavistock-based debt counselling service will probably be invited to open an office.
The rooms at the back may be kept if a good use can be found for them. But the possibility of a couple of cottages or flats is under consideration. The idea of making office or retail space is looking less likely than it first did, in view of the vacancies in the village already. But any commercial rental ideas for the back of the premises would be welcomed.
There are still complications to be overcome – like the possibility that the pews are listed for their heritage value; and a Dartmoor National Park preservation order on the front wall, which makes it difficult to organise vehicle access.
The church has tied one hand behind its back in the hunt for grants by ruling out the National Lottery Heritage Fund, because of the Methodist opposition to gambling.
But other possible sources of money have been identified and the church would probably come up with a bridging loan rather than stop the plan, having made a commitment to put the building back to work for its Christian mission.
The church is prepared to spend £250,000 on saving the building and £100,000 on interior conversion, rather than selling it for development, which had begun to look like the likeliest outcome.
The major works are pencilled in to start end of 2018 and complete before the end of 2019.
Sunday services will continue to be organised jointly with the Church of England at St John’s. But the chapel will host meetings, discussions and mid-week worship, to recruit for the Methodist cause.
Their new minister in the village, Philip Griffin, said this week: “There is no question of going back on the decision. My job is to make it work and we are moving forward every day. The church has consultants who will tackle the planning issues and the money will be found however necessary.”
The chapel was closed 11 years ago – the last of three Anglican breakaway chapels which were once a strong influence in the village and still have their loyalists.
Mr Griffin, a 34-year-old probationer waiting to be ordained, used to work in business administration. He is originally from Birmingham way but did his theological training in Plymouth and met his wife there, Catherine. They moved into the Methodist manse on Youldon Way last August and will probably stay for five years, working all round the Tavistock circuit but with special responsibility for Horrabridge and neighbouring villages. The Methodists run one Sunday a month at St John’s.
Their previous incumbent, John Swanston, returned to the forces as a chaplain.
Mr Griffin said: “I’m quite excited about the way it is moving forward. We looked at moving into another building in Horrabridge – the Leaping Salmon was one possibility – but there is a lot of emotional investment in this one and we owe it to our community to bring it back to life for them.”
Sooner or later, there will be a call for volunteers to clear the grounds.
Working party contacts are Paul Smith, a retired Plymouth Central minister; Jeff Moles, formerly superintendent of the Tavistock Methodist circuit; Lynne Roddy, representing the Horrabridge Methodist community; and Barbara Young, linking the Anglican side of the local congregation into the discussions.