A CONGREGATION has worshipped in its new chapel for the first time following a 13-year campaign to modernise it.

Members packed in for the first service at Middleton-in-Teesdale Methodist Chapel, in Teesdale, County Durham, today (April 10) following an open day yesterday (April 9).

The work is the first of three phases in the £500,000 project to modernise the church, with two further phases to create an activities space and foyer to be carried out next year.

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Ian Tallentire, property steward and chair of the renewal group, said: “We are very happy with the transformation – the stress is disappearing and if it lasts 50 years that will be good.”

Work started 11 months ago, with the hall to the rear of the old church now being refurbished into a new chapel, with kitchen, meeting room and cafe area with partitions to make the spaces larger or smaller as required.

Fellow steward and musician, Lisa Hext, who performed during the service, said: “It’s quite overwhelming, but we really hope it can be used in the community because it’s a really flexible space.

“It’s quite a transformation and feels very warm and welcoming.”

The Methodist chapel, which currently has 34 members, has been serving the community for more than 145 years and church members wanted a more user-friendly place for people to meet and worship.

They decided to start the project about 13 years ago and spent around eight years fundraising before work could start.

Since work began the congregation has had services at St Mary’s Church in the village, including a joint one every month – a tradition they will now maintain once a month in their own building.

Members of St Mary’s along with their minister Reverend Alison Wallbank and chair of the District Methodist Church, Rveerend, Ruth Gee, joined their neighbours for the service which was followed by tea, coffee and cake using the new facilities.

The chapel’s minister, Reverend Bev Hollings, said: “It’s fantastic! It’s looking to serve the community in the future.”

She added: “There’s a wonderful phrase in a hymn about serving in the present age to fill and the old building served its age so we are now preparing to serve for the next century in this one.”

The church will be officially opened and dedicated at a special service with the Reverend Steve Wild, president of the Methodist Conference, on Wednesday, April 27, at 7.30pm.