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A story of resurrection and faith; how a grade 1 listed rural church was restored after closure and is now open to all.

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In the Heart of Norfolk benefice, in the countryside between Dereham and Fakenham, lies the small village of Billingford on the B1145 road with North Elmham as its neighbour.

St Peter’s Church in Billingford sits on a hillside, overlooking fields and meadows of the Wensum Valley. The Grade 1 listed church has been closed for a while due to repairs needed to the south porch. After the closure, some of the windows failed, resulting in the church being open and used by pigeons, making a terrible mess. So the situation got worse.

Virginia Edgecombe was part of the team who were prayerfully determined to get the church back to use and on 16 June, the church happily reopened to all.

Virginia writes:

Many wonderful things then happened in a relatively short space of time enabling us to reopen for worship – indeed, it has been the most amazing privilege to be part of the team which has watched St Peter’s come back to life; some of us believed that it was not possible and that the church was “too far gone”, particularly when we found out that the cleaning alone would cost over £20,000!   It has been a story of Resurrection and of Faith.

First a parishioner made a large donation enabling us to repair a window. We then received a generous grant from Norfolk Churches Trust. On top of that, the local cleaning company, Stulee of Dereham (now part of Symclean) carried out a huge amount of work for no charge.

We have also benefitted from a grant from the Diocesan Minor Repairs and Improvements and Grants Fund, funded by the Church Commissioners. While much help has come in the form of grants, which has been more than welcome, we have received so much more. The local team has been supported throughout by members of the Diocesan parish support team and Norfolk Churches Trust. Their encouragement and advice has been invaluable.

We have plenty more to do with our restoration project, but there is a great momentum and the future now looks bright for this small rural parish.

Alice Richardson is part of the village community who helped to repair and restore the church. Alice says;

We are so excited to see what God is doing. People are coming together to help and give, the children are praying, things are happening! It is a Lazarus-like recovery of the village’s church.”

On 16 June, the Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Revd Dr Jane Steen joined in the celebrations by leading the service at St Peter’s. Bishop Jane says;

“The reopening of St Peter’s church in Billingford has been a highlight of 2024.  Churches should always be at the heart of their communities and the tremendous effort of congregation, councillors and wider community at large is a real testament to the affection local people feel for St Peter’s.  I’m immensely grateful to Symclean who supported this work so generously, to the parishioner whose donation to restore a window started the whole project, and to all those who got behind this wonderful work.  The results certainly show that the presence of the Church is highly valued in Norfolk, and I find that very encouraging for our mission and service.”

The Minor Works Grant scheme made a contribution of £4,674 towards the repair of the Porch at St Peter’s Church. Nicholas Cannon, Secretary of the Diocesan Advisory Committee, said,

“St Peter’s Church at Billingford had been unused and forlorn for several years. Thanks to the hard work and determination of members of the village community, it has been cleaned, repaired, and re-opened for regular worship. This is a very inspiring story, and the Church Care team has been delighted to support these efforts”.

What is the Minor Works Grant?

Churches with small projects that may fit the criteria of the Minor Works Grant scheme should contact Nicola Lewis, Frances Jackson or Anna Venn-Moncur in the Church Care team to see if we can help.