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Enhancing St Cuthbert’s place at the heart of Thetford 

The congregation of a Grade 2 listed 13th Century church in the heart of Thetford has raised over £200,000 to adapt their church building, to create a flexible interior which will be suitable for worship and a community café.

Speaking about the project, the Revd Dr Peter Herbert, Rector of St Cuthbert’s said: “Changes in society mean that our buildings need to adapt to better serve their community’s needs. Our challenge at St Cuthbert’s is to redevelop the building to keep it a hub of Christian and community life in Thetford.”

The plan involves installing a fully equipped catering kitchen, redesigning the toilets and improving access for people with disabilities. With the new flexible interior and fully equipped kitchen the church will also set up a new social enterprise café.

The café will provide jobs, training and work experience placements for people in the Thetford area. The café also aims to work with disadvantaged groups, such as people in recovery from substance misuse and those experiencing difficulty in getting back into employment, as an opportunity to experience work in the growing food sector business.

Peter Thomson, Church Council Secretary of St Cuthbert’s said: “Within our church family we have people with extensive experience in finance, catering management and of working with disadvantaged groups. Our staff will be able to provide specialist training in food preparation, food hygiene and health and safety, covering all aspects of how to operate in a fast-moving catering environment.

“The hope is that this new café will generate a minimum of 2.5 full time equivalent jobs and we consider that the potential scale of the project over five years could generate up to 4.5 full time equivalent jobs.”

The café will be open to the public most of the week but will also be available to be booked by individuals and organisations. The menu will be designed to include local food and drink to make use of products from local producers wherever possible, supporting local suppliers and growers.

The congregation of St Cuthbert’s hope that this phase of the development will enable them to reorder the main body of the church in the future. This includes replacing the pews with flexible seating which would enable the building to be hired out to individuals, organisations and community groups.

The Revd Dr Peter Herbert said: “The Church has a long history of social action. In the 18th century Christians taught children to read in the first Sunday schools. In the same century, the advocacy efforts of William Wilberforce and other Christians helped abolish the slave trade throughout the British Empire. Today social action inspired by the love of Christ happens through many churches. Whether it’s combating underlying causes of poverty such as unemployment and debt, or providing immediate help through food banks, the doors of many churches are wide open with Christians helping to meet a variety of needs. This development is a unique opportunity for St Cuthbert’s to provide modern facilities to the wider community as well securing the building as a place of Christian worship at the heart of Thetford.”

Pictured: St Cuthbert's Church, Thetford courtesy of the National Historic Churches Trust

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