Two large lumps of plaster falling from the ceiling have pre-empted a hearing which would have decided the future of West Lavington church.
Canon Colin Bradley, priest in charge at St Mary Magdalene, has announced the building has been closed for the foreseeable future.
He added, in the parish magazine, that if the descending chunks of plaster had struck anyone, 'the result could well have been fatal'.
The damage was discovered by two members of the congregation who arrived to prepare for a Sunday service.
A decision was taken by the church council some months ago that rising costs and falling congregations were spelling the end of the road for the church, and it should be declared redundant.
But because there is one objector, the Church Commissioners are expected to hold a special hearing this month.
Canon Bradley has now switched West Lavington services to the sister churches at Cocking and Bepton.
In his parish magazine he says: "The whole of the nave ceiling shows cracks in the plaster, suggesting there is a clear danger of more falls. There are further signs the plaster in the chancel is cracking.
"The church therefore must remain closed and no one is to enter the building unless authorised to do so.
"Whatever the outcome of the Commissioners' hearing, worship in West Lavington church has ceased for the foreseeable future.
"Necessary repairs will cost many tens of thousands of pounds, in addition to further tens of thousands of pounds for repairs to the internal stonework, and attention to the electrical system."
The church was built in 1850 and stands next to the former village school, which closed in July.
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