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by Gerry Lynch last modified 10 Nov, 2017 11:48 AM

Blackmore Vale church re-opens after £430,000 restoration

The church of St Simon and St Jude in Milton on Stour was filled for a Service of Thanksgiving and Celebration as the church re-opened after a £430,000 restoration and reordering project in time for the Patronal Festival on the 150th year anniversary of its consecration.

Bishop Nicholas joined the celebrations rededicating the church and people to be a place and people of welcome and hospitality. He preached a sermon encouraging worshippers to give thanks, be generous in our giving, to view the church as a doorway to Heaven.

Youngsters from the after-school club led worshippers in song and actions on being part of God’s plan as they turned to different parts of the church to re-dedicate the building and themselves for the new chapter in the life of the church.

After the service, Bishop Nicholas said, “What a great celebration of the renewal and restoration of St Simon and St Jude’s.  And what a project!  My hope was renewed. In every way this was a confidence-building project.”

In 2014 an ambitious plan was born to replace the sinking floor and re-order the church to make the building more welcoming, accessible and useable. The vision was to create a flexible space towards the west end of the building that might encourage as many people as possible to feel comfortable in the church for community use as well as worship.

Milton on Stour Clergy.jpgWorks have been extensive. The floor, which was sinking into the space below, has been completely removed to allow new foundations to be laid to ensure the floor remains level. Under floor heating and new floorboards have been laid as well as the thousands of woodblocks being re-laid in the aisles after being hand cleaned, A kitchenette has been added, and a small extension built for a toilet and to house the boiler. The heating and lighting has been renewed. The font has been moved and repaired. The pulpit has been rebuilt and some pews removed to allow for more flexible use of the space. Finally, an emergency exit has been added, the walls have been decorated and storage cupboards have been put in place.

While this has been going on local embroiderer, Lisa Bilby, of the Royal School of Needlework, has been working hard restoring the parish banners, including the 150-year-old original.

Funding for the project came from numerous donations from local people and those further afield, local fundraising and larger grants were made by the Erskine Muton Fund, The Heritage Lottery Fund, Dorset Historic Churches Trust, The Matthews Family Trust, Allchurches Trust and the Garfield Weston Foundation.

During the closure of the church building for the work to be done, the church went ‘on tour’ for worship, gratefully accepting the hospitality of the local school, St Georges Chapel, Langham, The owners of the Old House in Milton, and St Mary’s, Gillingham.

Lower photo: Clergy from the Gillingham and Milton on Stour Benefice with Bishop Nicholas.

Left-to-right: the Revd Eve Pegler, Pioneer Minister; Bishop Nicholas; the Revd Canon Peter Greenwood, Priest-in-Charge; the Revd Andy Muckle, Assistant Curate.

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