Free community barbecue will help launch church plans for listed building in Wisbech
A group behind plans to convert a former girls school into a church are holding a free community barbecue to encourage the public to get involved.
The building at 1Hill Street, Wisbech, which dates back to 1818 when it opened as a girls school, has in more recent times been used as offices for the social justice charity Nacro.
However, it was bought last year by the evangelical organisation, Redeemed Christian Church Group, and has been used by its members for services for their Grace of Throne Church since then.
Tina Cooley, a congregation member, is helping to lead the project to convert the Grade II listed building into a suitable premises for church services.
She explained: "We have been holding services on the groundfloor, but there is work needed to make it more suitable for use as a church. We want to open the whole of the groundfloor as an auditorium that could also be used by the community during the week.
"It is a large building. The groundfloor was built in 1818 as a girls' school and the upper floors were added in 1850. We hope to make them suitable for community use and we are holding the free barbecue on July 30 to encourage people to come along and have a look around the building and to have their input into what sort of things they would like to see provided.
"We have ideas about groups such as a drop-in café and something for parents and young children, but we are looking for suggestions. Although any groups will be hosted by the church, they will not be linked to the church. We are not looking to recruit new members of the congregation, that is not what this is about.
"We want to do something to help build a better sense of community in the town, something that is perhaps lacking since the pandemic and all the lockdowns.
"Obviously if people decide they want to come along to services, then that would be fantastic and they would be made very welcome. But as I said this is not what we are about. We want to make full use of this wonderful building, and we want to get a feel for what people think is needed.
"Because the building is listed we are working closely with the conservation officer at Fenland District Council and we are also working with a builder who has experience of working on such projects. We want to maintain the history of the building, but at the same time make it fit for purpose."
At present there is a congregation of around 60 people who attend the weekly services led by Pastor Femi Obedaye, and there is also a thriving children's church with 25 youngsters attending youth services.
Tina, who previously attended services at a Baptist church said: "I can honestly say this is the most joyful church I have ever attended, I always leave services feeling truly uplifted.
"That is why I am happy to help with this project, and because I have worked in the building industry for many years I am also qualified to do it. The first phase is likely to cost around £120,000, with the whole scheme estimated at around £250,000. We have been given funding from the parent church, which has churches in Peterborough and King's Lynn among other local places, and we will be fundraising to help with the the cost.
"However, Saturday's barbecue, which starts at 2pm, is free because we want as many people as possible to come along and see what we are planning and to have their input and there is absolutely no obligation to do anything else other than enjoy the afternoon."
If you would like to find out more about the project, or run a group that would interested in using the building contact Tina on 07460501270.