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Proposals for social centre at village church to go on display

All Saints church, Little Bealings. Picture: BARRY PULLEN

All Saints church, Little Bealings. Picture: BARRY PULLEN

(c) copyright citizenside.com

Plans to secure the future of a village church in Suffolk are set to go on display this month.

All Saints Church, in Little Bealings, has been running at an unsustainable loss of more than £5,000 a year – with income of £11,000 against maintenance costs of £13,000 – and, in 2015, was hard-pressed to find £28,000 needed to repair the roof.

After a benefice-wide survey identified a need for a social centre within four local villages – currently without a café, pub, post office or shop – a vision emerged for a hub within All Saints to open daily for worship, refreshments and social activities for the community and school.

In line with a Church of England report into buildings successfully continuing as places of worship while hosting various community facilities, a business plan was drawn up, amended and approved in draft form for the regeneration of the church into a community centre with a staffed café – initially open for three days a week, expanding to five or six days a week, excluding Sundays, following a trial period.

Among ideas for the hub are a breakfast club for schoolchildren, and space for toddler groups, mental health groups, community lunches and private venue hire.

The proposals have already garnered international attention, with an invitation to present at a conference on ecclesiastical heritage and its future challenges next April, in Lund, Sweden.

The plans will go on display at two open meetings in All Saints Church, from 10am-noon on Monday, September 11, and 7pm-9pm on September 13.

Priest-in-Charge, Revd Celia Cook said: “Years ago, churches were the main hub of the community. We’d like to try and recapture that spirit while maintaining the church as a place of worship.”

Within its ‘Growing in God’ strategy, the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich promotes innovative ways of identifying the best use of buildings to support congregations for growth.

Parochial church council secretary, Helen Clarkson-Fieldsend acknowledged the challenges inherent in doing something innovative in a small village: “Change is always difficult, and we want to honour the traditions and heritage of the building, while respecting the process of applying to the diocese for a faculty and sharing the plans at the open meetings.”

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