Lowestoft church celebrates snug new hub

A LOWESTOFT church is celebrating the completition of a seven-month scheme to transform it from 'a cold, cramped and under-used building' into a warm, welcoming community hub.

St Andrew's Church, Roman Hill, has undergone a major refurbish-ment under the �750,000 Access All Areas project.

Lowestoft-based Blackburns Construction started work to renovate, expand and improve the building in March and completed the project nine weeks early, just in time for it to be fully open for St Andrew's Day: November 30.

The end of the scheme was marked when the builders handed over the keys to the new-look building.

Vicar the Rev Mark McCaghrey, said: 'It is hard to believe that it is the same building. We had got so used to it being cold and unwelcoming, feeling cramped and underused. But now it is full of light, it is warm and it has so much potential.

'When people who knew the old building come in, they are amazed.'

Churchwarden Jean Woodrow added: 'St Andrew's Day is a very important time for us, as St Andrew is the patron saint of the church, so we are planning a special celebration service at 6.30pm on Sunday to celebrate the completion of the new facilities. We hope many people will be able to join us.'

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The work also finished just in time for Sam Wiseman and Steve Dupas to become the first couple to get married in the refurbished building – on the tenth anniversary of their first date.

Sam said: 'It's a great honour to be the first couple to be married after the renovations and it has made our day that much more special.'

Seven years ago, the congregation of St Andrew's went door to door to ask people what they wanted to see in their area. The response was better community facilities and more activities for all ages.

With nowhere else in the area to put these, the church decided to redesign the existing St Andrew's building to provide the community with the facilities it needed. After years of planning and fundraising, the Access All Areas project was the result.

All existing groups and Sunday services have continued through the building work and will be joined by new activities, making the most of the new facilities; these include access to the award-winning garden, wireless internet connections, a training suite, sound amplification with a loop for the hard of hearing and the ability to cater for groups from two to 200. The alterations have also included replacing a small, dark lobby with a larger, lighter room that will be used as a community caf�.

To show local people how things have improved, the church will be open from 10am until 4pm from Monday to Friday next week and from 11am to 2pm every Friday after that.

Gill Gabb, another churchwarden, said 'We want the local community to come and see the amazing change to the building and help us get off to a good start. Come and join us for refreshments and tell us how you would like the building used.'

The project was funded by local and national groups and individuals, including the Big Lottery Fund's community building programme, Lowestoft Together, WREN, the Diocese of Norwich, Suffolk Environmental Trust and the Geoffrey Watling Charity.

Access All Areas has flowed from more than 100 years of active involvement by the church in the community and its congregation's vision to use the building to make a difference to the lives of local people. It makes St Andrew's one of the first churches in Norfolk and Waveney to extend its use in this way.