On Sunday 28 May, St John’s church in Cove welcomed the Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson, local councillors and members of the Cove community past and present for the official opening of its new ‘access for all’ annex.
The self-contained extension will provide the church with much-needed extra space for community and church events, as well as the facilities to service these activities, such as a kitchenette, a disabled toilet and a level floor to aid accessibility.
At the opening ceremony, Bishop Andrew cut the ribbon to the attractive stone annex, allowing the congregation to access the afternoon celebrations through the brand new oak doorway and entrance area, which leads to the existing part of the church. These included a reception with canapés and St John’s trademark – champagne to toast the faithfulness of God.
The improvements were a long-standing ambition for St John’s current and past church teams alike – anecdotally it is 65 years in the making! Official plans for the extension were drawn up around 10 years ago under the leadership of the previous vicar, the Revd Jonathan Hillman (current rector of St John’s church in Windlesham) who will join the celebrations at the opening ceremony.
Refurbishment of the church interior was prioritised at the time, leaving insufficient funds for the annex project. Fundraising restarted and, in March 2016, the target was reached thanks to generous pledges, donations and fundraising activities from the local community, allowing work to begin in October 2016.
Revd Esther Prior, team vicar at St John’s, Cove, said: “This is a project that has been talked about for over 65 years! It feels like a miracle and I think it has energised our hope for all that God can do in the future.”
Les Ruskell, who managed the project on behalf of the church, added:
“The new building will help us to meet the demand for extra space for community activities, especially as it is self-contained. In the past the lack of toilet facilities in particular had made it impossible to conduct such activities in the church itself.
“Possible users are Parity, the disability charity, who have already expressed an interest, and we hope to begin giving English lessons for the local Nepalese community."