A CHESTER-le-Street church will be welcoming friends old and new as it celebrates its bi-centenary.

The Bethel United Reformed Church in Low Chare is holding events next weekend to mark the 200th anniversary of the foundation stone being laid on May 3, 1814.

A coffee morning, a special Sunday service and a meal will be held to mark the occasion.

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A spokesman for the church said: “The church has a rich history, which has been documented by the Chester-le-Street Heritage Group.

“In 1972, the Congregational Church, as it was then, amalgamated with the Presbyterian Church of England and later with the Churches of Christ to become the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom.

“Over the years, the building has been altered and enlarged and there are now upper and lower meeting rooms, a kitchen, which is often used for church lunches and coffee mornings, and of course, the main church with its balcony and stained glass windows.

“There is a good mix of old and young, a thriving Sunday School, a Christian toddler group and various groups representing different aspects of church life.

“Previous members and friends will be visiting for the celebratory weekend, which includes an open coffee morning on Saturday, May 3, a meal in the evening and a special service on Sunday, May 4, at 11.15am, followed by a buffet lunch.

“The present minister, Revd Gordon Brown, will be leading that service with several former ministers also taking part.

“Bethel is proud to be celebrating 200 years of worship. “