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Save our Bethel campaign

PUBLISHED: 10:22 23 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:27 05 July 2010

THIS week The Journal launches a Save Our Bethel campaign as the fishermen and sailors' church in Lowestoft celebrates its 158th anniversary.

The Bethel, in Battery Green Road, was last month put up for sale as a "possible redevelopment opportunity" putting into jeopardy its long tradition as a centre of Christian worship.

THIS week The Journal launches a Save Our Bethel campaign as the fishermen and sailors' church in Lowestoft celebrates its 158th anniversary.

The Bethel, in Battery Green Road, was last month put up for sale as a “possible redevelopment opportunity” putting into jeopardy its long tradition as a centre of Christian worship.

Pastor Morris Baldry and his fellow church leaders have celebrated the 158th anniversary of the Bethel and are already making plans to celebrate the 159th.

“The building may be up for sale but the congregation are far, very very far, from being down and out. We have just celebrated 158 years of worship and service to Lowestoft and plans are under way for the 159th anniversary next year,” said Mr Baldry.

“I want to express my thanks and that of the Bethel Christian Fellowship for The Journal's coverage of the recent happenings here at the Bethel. We did not expect front page coverage nor the interest from other media either,” he said.

Mr Baldry had special praise for Lowestoft historian John Holmes who wrote a fascinating history of the Bethel that was published in last week's Journal.

During Lowestoft Town Football Club's great cup run to the final of the FA Vase at Wembley the community showed they are prepared to get behind their town.

Church leaders at the Bethel hope the same community spirit can be shown to keep the Bethel as a centre of Christian worship.

“It would be nice if some kind soul would purchase the building and still allow the fellowship to worship there,” said Mr Baldry.

The building has been put up for sale by the British and International Sailors' Society (BISS) as there is no longer a sizeable sea-going community in the Lowestoft area.

The sale is being handled by Lowestoft-based agents O A Chapman and Sons and offers are being invited in the region of £145,000.

One possible proposal is that a trust is set up to purchase the building so that it can continue as a church or it may be possible that a new purchaser can share the use of the building.

There is no animosity between leaders of the Bethel and sailors' society and last weekend the Rev David Potterton, principal chaplain of the society, spoke at a celebration tea and the Sunday worship services.

On Tuesday this week the Bethel Ladies Fellowship was joined by women from 12 churches across Lowestoft for the annual rally as part of the Bethel anniversary weekend. More than 60 took part in the worship that was addressed by Karen Jack, of Ipswich.

Of the Bethel's 158 years in Lowestoft 108 have been at the present building.

John Holmes is hoping that the Bethel remains in Lowestoft for many years to come.

“From my point of view it has always been great to have the Bethel in Lowestoft as it is one of a very few of our historical buildings that remain intact. I therefore hope that a way can be found to retain this lovely building to meet the needs of the present congregation and hopefully future generations,” he said.

Mr Holmes was supported by another Lowestoft resident, Leo Whisstock, of the Royal Naval Patrol Service Association.

“The loss of any church in a community is sad enough but as its name suggests the Bethel had very direct involvement with the mainstay of Lowestoft's former economy the fishing industry,” he said.

The Journal wants to hear from readers about their experiences of the Bethel and how important it is to them. We would also like to hear of any ideas about how the building can be saved so that it can continue its historic role as a centre of Christian worship in the area. Write to David Lennard, chief reporter, The Journal, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft, NR32 1NB, or e-mail david.lennard@archant.co.uk

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