WILLINGTON parishioners are celebrating after blessing one of the founding stones of their new church.

Members of Willington Methodist Church, in Lydia Street, have raised £200,000 over ten years to fund the new building, which will be constructed on the car park of the existing church.

The new building will be named the Open Door Church and will be a multi-purpose venue available to the whole community as well as worshippers and will have a hall, lounge, office, kitchen and toilets.

On Thursday (May 28), members gathered outside the church for a short ceremony to bless one of the foundation stones as part of a brick blessing service.

The service was led by the church’s minister, Reverend Andrew Robinson who was also joined by Reverend Janet Titterton and about 25 members of the congregation.

The church’s oldest member, 96-year-old Frank Neagle, and youngest member 18-month-old Sienna Guy, were also present and acted as symbols of the church’s strong past and bright future.

It was the second ceremony of its kind for Mr Neagle, who, as a ten-year-old boy was also present when the church hall’s foundation stone was being blessed in the 1920s.

Church member, Olwyn Morris said: “It was wonderful for Mr Neagle to be part of the ceremony – he has been a member of our church all his life so that was great – he represented the link with the previous church.

“It’s very unusual to have a ceremony like this because not many churches are built anymore but it’s very exciting for us.”

Mrs Morris explained how the current church and hall would need to be sold in order to build the new one but that it would also be a community hall for everyone.

“Our church and hall have been well-used by the community in the past, though recently the poor state of the hall has lead to a fall-off of usage,” she added.

“We are confident our new surroundings will be attractive to our current and new users.”

A community day for anyone who wants to revisit the church, re-live old memories and learn about the new church will be held on Saturday, August 22.

“It’s a chance to say goodbye to the old and to welcome the new,” Mrs Morris added.

The church is due to be completed by the end of September and the official opening weekend will be held on November 14 and 15.

For more information visit westdurhammethodists.org.uk