Bishop cuts church turf

Turft cutting by the Bishop of Ely after 15 years of fundraising for the new Benwick Church'left to right Albert Sismey, John Hoffman, Bishop Stephen, Pat Tickner, Rev Mike Jones and Rev David Ely
Turft cutting by the Bishop of Ely after 15 years of fundraising for the new Benwick Church'left to right Albert Sismey, John Hoffman, Bishop Stephen, Pat Tickner, Rev Mike Jones and Rev David Ely

WORK on a new church for Benwick officially got underway at the weekend when the Bishop of Ely performed a turf cutting ceremony.

The ceremony marks the culmination of many years of planning and fundraising by the Friends of Benwick Church.

Turft cutting by the Bishop of Ely after 15 years of fundraising for the new Benwick Church'Alyssa Shepperson 4 with Bishop Stephen

Turft cutting by the Bishop of Ely after 15 years of fundraising for the new Benwick Church'Alyssa Shepperson 4 with Bishop Stephen

The Friends have raised over £100,000 towards the final cost of developing the existing village hall with the hope of seeing a new home for the church finally emerge.

Fundraising activities have included the August Bank Holiday picnic and duck race, and the Christmas bazaar.

Benwick has been without a dedicated place of worship since 2005 when the Wesleyan Chapel in High Street followed the fate of both the Baptist Chapel and St Mary’s Church and closed for safety reasons.

All three buildings had suffered subsidence, the Baptist Chapel was first to go, closing its doors in the 1960s, St Mary’s held its last service in 1980 and was demolished five years later.

Since then worshippers have had to make do holding services in the meeting room of the Village Hall.

Services have also had to be curtailed to just twice a month in recent times.

The Rt Rev Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely, said: “Benwick is an example of a community dedicated to ensuring that there is space set aside within the community for prayer and worship which reflects the unique character of those who live there. It is an enormous privilege to be sharing in this weekend’s celebrations.”

Saturday’s turf cutting was part of a celebration of the starting of the project and also included a coffee morning and a chance for people to see the plans.

John Hoffman, chairman of the Friends of Benwick Church, said the building work is likely to take around seven months to complete and pointed out the £100,000 raised was matched by Fenland Council to cover the £200,000 cost of the extension.

The work will also include improvements to the hall itself including a new roof and installation of solar panels.