A COCONUT shy and 'splat the rat' game could help a congregation to improve church facilities.

The popular games are among a packed programme of family-friendly activities in Sandford-on-Thames this Sunday, which will fundraise for a Littlemore church's £560,000 building plans.

St Mary and St Nicholas Church has organised the event at the De Vere Oxford Thames hotel, which will also feature live music, raffles, face painting, food stalls and a barbecue.

It is hoped the free Family Sunday Funday, which runs from midday until 3pm, will bring the church a step closer to much-needed improvements.

Andrew Smith of South Oxford, who sits on the building project's steering group, said: "The old building has no running water, no toilets or kitchen.

"The way in which the interior is set up at the moment makes it very difficult for anything that requires a bit more flexibility."

The church wants to install toilets, a kitchen, new heating and lighting and revise the layout to make it more flexible for use by the wider community.

All changes would be contained within the current building and it will not change on the outside.

The collective development inside the church is called the Newman Meeting Place, after the church's famous founder John Henry Newman.

The church has already raised £151,000 towards its target, mostly since 2016.

Mr Smith, former director of the Gatehouse homelessness organisation, said: "There was a stage when people thought it was never going to happen, but, bit by bit, some of the obstacles have fallen away.

"We are really beginning to believe it will happen and there is a bit of excitement in the development steering group, which is trying to turn the dream into a reality."

Oxford architect Christian Randall, who has designed the redevelopment, said: "I work with many churches in the diocese and like to think I have a very different approach to these unique projects.

"As with many churches the building is historically important and loved by many, even those who are not worshippers, so I’m always reluctant to do anything which diminishes the character of these places.

"My basic idea was to give them the facilities they needed all within the space they already use."

Images showing how the improved church would look

Writing in the church’s latest newsletter, the De Vere hotel said it was ‘delighted’ to name the church its charity of the year.

The statement added: “We know that cultivating a positive company culture and giving back to our community go hand in hand.

“We caught the vision of turning the church into a welcoming space at the geographical heart of Littlemore and are already supporting [this]."

Everyone is welcome at the fundraiser and there will be free transport running regularly on the afternoon, from Littlemore village green to the hotel.

The shuttle bus, provided by Aspire Oxford, is accessible for people with disabilities.

For more details about the church fund or to donate, visit newmanmeetingplace.org.uk.