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North-east church outlines wi-fi challenge

A North-East Anglican church has welcomed reports that the Government is considering proposals to install wi-fi in churches following its own challenges to do it ...

A North-East Anglican church has welcomed reports that the Government is considering proposals to install wi-fi in churches – but has pointed to its own difficulties as an example of the problems that will be faced.

St Michael and All Angels in Witton Gilbert, North Durham, has been trying for a year, without success, to have wi-fi installed in the 800-year-old building.

Several days ago, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber said that churches across the country should be fitted with wi-fi in a bid to make them a more integral part of the community.

Mr Lloyd Webber, who sits as a Conservative member in the House of Lords, said that discussions over installing internet for the general public at churches have already taken place with the Government.

He was reported as saying: ''I want to get every church in the country on wi-fi. Once you do that, the church becomes the centre of the community again. They should go back to the medieval traditions, which is that the nave of the church is always used for local businesses.”

The Vicar of St Michael and All Angels, Canon Caroline Dick, welcomed the composer’s recognition of the need for churches to install Wi-fi in their buildings, especially in the light of the year-long struggle to install the system in the parish church.

The saga began when BT couldn’t send an engineer out as the church did not have a postcode, the council couldn’t give them a postcode without a letterbox and the location of the letterbox then had to be approved by the archdeacon, all of which took time.

The church was originally quoted £300 for wi-fi to be put in, but when the engineer did come out they were told it would cost £1,500 to run the wire from the road to the church as existing telegraph poles could not be used.

The church’s ‘Health and Wellbeing’ charity called ‘Breathing Space’ has its offices in the church and until the wi-fi is installed the project officer Gillie Boggon is having to cope with a mobile phone and home working.

Canon Dick said: “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s proposal couldn’t be more timely in highlighting the urgent need for our churches to be of real service to their communities.

“We will continue to do all that we can to raise the £1,500 needed and we will be first in the queue when money becomes available to support Andrew Lloyd Webber’s idea.“

St Michael and All Angels recently received Heritage Lottery Fund finance as part of a £262,000 project to widen use of the 800-year-old church and the adjoining nature reserve. Work included repairs to the roof, a new toilet,  a kitchen/meeting room, flooring, heating and seating as part of the church’s Breathing Space health and well-being project, which involves organisations working with a range of people, including those dealing with people affected by mental health issues.

The project takes advantage of the church’s setting next to a nature reserve and runs courses such as art and relaxation, along with healing sessions and teaching people about wildlife. People to benefit include homeless people and those with addiction problems, as well as elderly people from the area.

PHOTO: Rev Canon Caroline Dick and Project Officer Gillie Boggon outside St Michael's & All Angels in Witton Gilbert. Picture by Keith Blundy

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