A CONGREGATION is celebrating as the date for the opening of its newly redeveloped church approaches.

A £200,000 project by supporters of St John Church in Sharow, near Ripon, is coming to an end after six years of tireless fundraising.

Reverend Linda Boon said she was delighted the project has been successful in providing a space that will be available for the whole community and has also helped local and international charities along the way.

She said: “It’s a phenomenal amount to raise for the size of the community and I’m thrilled we have got to where we are today.

“It all started when the heating broke down six years ago and the congregation faced a tough decision between a quick fix or a full refurbishment of the heating that would serve them for many years to come.

“Despite having to have a lot of meetings to decide the best route to take and being told we would never achieve it, it was decided to use under floor heating, and also to install a new lighting and sound system.”

A £60,000 legacy left to the church in 2008 kick-started the appeal and led to more pledges from congregation members, before fundraising drives including two Three Peaks walks, concerts and other grants culminated in the work starting in October last year.

Rev Boon said: “We decided to take up the old pews from the church in order to install the heating, and we sold them to raise more money.

“We now use chairs so the space is flexible and a wonderful place for concerts and theatre performances.

“We can also cater for community and children’s groups and have a wedding scheduled for 2015, with the couple using the church for the reception as well as ceremony.”

Three charities will receive a share of ten per cent of the £200,000 raised: Ripon Citizen’s Advice Bureau; an elderly care home in Sri Lanka with links to the Ripon and Leeds Diocese; and Stockton-on-Tees charity A Way Out for youngsters overcoming addition.

The church will hold its grand opening on Saturday, April 5 and Sunday, April 6, and the Bishop of Ripon, James Bell will be leading a service of thanksgiving on Sunday at 3pm.