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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Cumbrian church's vision for future coming to fruition

An ambitious project to transform a church, that has been a decade in the making, is nearing its end.

St Augustine
The new facilities at St Augustine’s Catholic Church by construction firm Jacobs Stobbarts

A vision was set out 10 years ago to alter St Augustine’s Church on Waverley Road, Belah, Carlisle. Now the church is almost ready to welcome its parishioners back into the main building after a raft of renovation work.

The long-term project has been worked on by a host of parishioners and priest Geoffrey Steel, who have had to draw up plans, raise funds and get the work carried out.

Feeling that the church was too small for large events and in need of an update, the church team decided to make room for extra seating for about 70 people which could be partitioned off, build a new parish office and a meeting room available for hire.

The church had undergone little work since opening in 1979.

Father Steel said: “Ten years ago we identified that we needed more space in the church.

“The facilities that we had were in good condition but they didn’t allow us the space for big events in the church such as Easter, Christmas, weddings, Christenings etc. That’s been the vision.

“It has been a long process and we are coming to the end of this favourable cause.

“We are very positive about it. I’m hoping that we can use the reopening to really boost the church community and our mission in the community round about.”

While the work has been carried out Mr Steel has been holding his services in the parish centre next door which was decked out to resemble the church as closely as possible.

The church is hoping to hold its first mass in the renovated building, which has been out of action since October, on Palm Sunday on April 13.

Funding for the alterations has come from the sale of land at the side of the church, currently containing the parish centre.

This will be used to build sheltered housing on after the centre is knocked down – probably in June.

Now with the imminent reopening, the church committee hopes that all the services the parish currently offers can continue, under one roof.

“The parishioners have been very supportive. A good team of them put a lot of thought into how we would use the centre to carry on as normal. A lot of people were surprised to see how much it looked like the church,” he added.

“We certainly hope it is going to be worth it, I’m sure it will be. It has been a major project to bring the church up to standard and improve accessibility, getting the facilities where we needed to.”

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