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Barton church gets new look as it prepares to welcome community groups
ONE hundred new chairs have arrived at Barton’s St Mary’s Church as the building prepares to become the new home for local community groups.
The wooden church hall next to the Bayswater Road church will have to be abandoned next year because it is falling into disrepair.
The church hall is used by groups including Brownies, Guides, Isis Dance Academy and church social groups.
The new chairs mean the church itself can now be used by these groups as they can be stacked up and moved around.
The vicar, the Rev Maggie Thorne, said the maroon chairs had cost about £4,000, paid for by fundraising and donations.
She said they have made a “huge difference” already, adding: “The church is now flexible for community use. It’s an enormous turning point. The interior of the church is lighter and has a really good contemporary feel.”
St Mary’s is the latest county church to introduce community activities in a bid to encourage more people to get involved.
In May the Oxford Mail reported a growing number of worshippers going to Anglican churches in Oxfordshire had gone up three per cent, bucking a national trend for falling attendance. Surveyors working for the diocese said in 2012 that the 1960s St Mary’s church hall could be unsafe to use next year.
Mrs Thorne said community groups would stop using the hall in the summer unless it was declared unsafe sooner.
She said the church was now looking to fundraise for a new kitchen, toilets, and a small space for meetings and activities.
The church was last year told it would cost more than £500,000 to replace the hall.
Mrs Thorne said: “Replacing the hall is out of the question as it would cost a fortune.”
Barton Neighbourhood Association secretary Sue Holden has said it could fall further into disrepair and become the target of vandals if abandoned.
But she also said it could be hard to raise cash to get the hall demolished.