New congregation to reopen Fritchley church with First World War event

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After a residents’ campaign saved Fritchley’s historic church from a potential sale, the building will reopen later this month with a special First World War centenary event.

The Grade II listed congregationalist church closed just over a year ago after services became sporadic and attendances dwindled.

The Congregational Federation, which owns the building, was thought to be exploring options to sell it, much to the dismay of residents who used the attached hall as a community space.

After a number of residents expressed interest in forming a new congregation, the federation agreed to reopen the church as of May 19.

Ian Chinn, 53, who moved to the village 18 months ago and is now the community-church liaison, said: “Everyone is very pleased. We’ve had so much interest in joining the congregation, and the hall is almost fully booked again for when it opens.

“It has taken about a year to first convince the federation that the church had a future, and then to raise money for all the necessary maintenance works and safety checks.”

The church will initially host one service a month, led by a member of the clergy travelling from Nottingham, and that could increase if the church proves sustainable.

Ian said: “I’m particularly pleased, as my family has been part of the Congregational Church since the 1800s.

“Several people moved to a recent housing development nearby because they thought there was an established church here too.”

Many residents have been busy cleaning the hall and getting things ready, and the project has also been backed with a grant from Ripley Town Council for new furniture.

The reopening will be celebrated with an event which marks 100 years since the village’s soldiers returned from the First World War.

Ian said: “There is a plaque just inside the door of the church which lists the 24 soldiers from Fritchley who went to fight, and the 20 who returned. The date of their return was May 19, 1919.

“We did some research and discovered that the church held a similar service on that day, so we are effectively recreating it. It should be a fantastic draw to bring people back into the building.”

The church hall will host an exhibition of First World War history starting at 1pm, while Crich Brass perform on the village green.

At 4pm, the Rev Stella Wallace-Tween and Fritchley Choir will lead the service, followed by an afternoon tea.