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South Norfolk church set to rise from the ashes

2011: South Norfolk pastor Rev Mark Taylor has spoken of his excitement and vision as an £180,000 project to redevelop Carleton Rode Baptist Church is set to begin two years after part of it was gutted in an arson attack. Keith Morris reports.

CarletonRodeOutside420The historic rural chapel was severely damaged in a failed burglary and fire in June 2009 and the church has since been meeting in Bunwell Village Hall, a move which has resulted in more people coming into contact with the church and a larger congregation.
 
Building work is set to begin on Monday October 31 to not only repair the damage but also bring major improvement to both the main church hall and the adjacent community building.
 
The work aims to transform the chapel into a new social hub for the wider community. The pews will be taken out of the main hall, opening it up to a much wide range of activities including community meals and more flexible services.
 
Also planned is a new glass-fronted coffee bar and patio area, a meeting room for a youth club and community groups, a church office, new toilets and a kitchen suitable for serving lunches.
 
MarkTaylorLoft420The whole project will cost £180,000, of which £50,000 has been raised by the congregation of around 70 people, plus gifts from other Baptist churches around Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. Insurance money from the fire and interest-free loans from the Baptist Union and church members will make up the balance to enable the work to go ahead.
 
The work should take around three months to complete and will be ready in good time for the church’s 200-year anniversary celebrations in June.
 
“It has made us think about what the church should look like in the future,” said Mark. “We want to be salt and light and to be a positive presence within the community, not just a building for people who come to worship here on Sundays.
 
“The fire was a big problem, along with the vandalism we have suffered since but it has also been a blessing. It has enabled us to really see what our presence in the community should be for our generation and on into the future,” said Mark.
 
MarkTaylorStables420“For everyone it was really sad when the fire happened but right from the outset we said something good has got to come out of this. We have been overwhelmed by the support shown by the community.
 
“We said to the congregation if you’re committed to see this coming into being then you have to be committed in prayer, committed in the time you can give and there also needs to be a financial commitment. I think the church has really stepped up to the mark. It’s impressive that people have just given so much.”
 
Now the church can look forward to the future with real optimism and is planning for the day when it can return to the chapel and then celebrate its 200th anniversary with the whole community.
 
Birthday parties are planned along with visits from the principal of Spurgeons Bible College Nigel Wright, Rev Chris Duffett, Baptist Union president and Rev Roy Searle, leader of the Northumbria Community.
 
“We have a vision that as each brick is added to the church we want to add living stones to the congregation to equip us for our future work,” said Mark.

Pictured above is Rev Mark Taylor inside Carleton Rode Chapel and in the burnt-out stable block which is st to be turned into a coffee bar and community space.

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