Work starts next week on a £450,000 refurbishment of a Dereham church.

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The congregation of Dereham Baptist Church in the High Street will had their last service in the building on Sunday before moving to the town’s Northgate High School while the work is carried out.

The project - which is likely to be completed in May - will involve the downstairs pews being removed and slope of the floor being levelled.

The replacement floor will also mean that the steps at the front entrance can be removed with a level access being created for disabled users.

The available floor space in the church will be increased and a complete redecoration and repairs to the outside of the building and the ceiling will also be carried out.

While the main church will be out of action, the rest of the building - including the back hall - will still be in use and activities which use it will continue.

Minister the Rev Chris Densham described what difference the work would make.

“It will create a flexible, user friendly space that will not only better suit our use on a Sunday morning but enable a whole variety of other activities to take place during the week . I believe this is a really important time for Dereham Baptist Church. It will be a challenging time but also I hope we can maintain a sense of adventure as we experiment with some new things. Who knows how God will change us in the process and what new things He will grow as we do this.”

Mr Densham added: “There has been a Baptist Chapel in Dereham since the late 1700s. Our current buildings, being right in the heart of the town, are placed in a wonderful location to serve the local community. We already do that in a whole variety of ways, from toddlers groups, English language lessons for migrant workers, youth and children’s work and a very popular weekly coffee shop. However we are currently only able to use the largest section of the building on a Sunday morning, because of its current configuration.”

The first services at Northgate High will be on January 8 and Mr Densham said: “We really appreciate the welcome they’ve given us and the practical assistance in a number of areas. We’re really looking forward to the challenge of meeting in a different place, we also hope it will provide an opportunity for some new folk to join us. Going into a church building for the first time is for many people a daunting experience, and we hope that a well-known local high school might be easier. We will be serving teas and coffee in the entrance hall from 10am and the service starts at 10.30am with a full range of activities for the whole family.”

For a month during the period the high school needs the hall for their musical production, and so the church is trying something quite different.

Mr Densham explained: “During that month we will be multiplying into several different congregations, each with a different emphasis, all meeting simultaneously in different locations around the area. This will include café-style church in Swanton Morley Village Hall, very informal family church in Toftwood Village Hall, a more traditional service in our back hall and church on the streets serving local people.”

The vast majority of the cost of the refurbishment work has come from church members, together with a small loan from The Baptist Union of Great Britain.

The design work and management of the project is being carried out by Purslows Chartered Building Surveyors and the work by Fisher Bullen.

For more information the church visit www.derehambaptist.org.

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