PARISHIONERS are working on a plan to help the community benefit from a lightning strike which destroyed part of their Ramsbottom church.

Work is due to start in spring on repairing the damage caused to St Andrew’s Church in July last year when huge chunks of masonry from a pinnacle on the tower smashed though the roof.

Insurers will meet the estimated £400,000 cost of the repairs, but the congregation has decided that the opportunity should be taken to make the 180-year-old building more useful to people in the area.

So they have opted create a new, larger kitchen in an area beneath the existing interior balcony and the current small kitchen will become a toilet.

A meeting room will be created in the remainder of the space under the balcony, screened off from the rest of the church by folding glass doors.

This will mean there is still the option of keeping the doors open to accommodate larger congregations.

The work, which will be paid for through grants, donations and fundraising, will enable the church to host lunches and other functions as well as making it more attractive to organisations looking for somewhere to hire.

“These are really exciting times at St Andrew’s,” said vicar the Rev Andy Lindop.

“The lightning strike was not a disaster. It has helped us focus upon the direction we want to go in and how we can engage more with the community. We did not just want to put the building back the way it was, but to make St Andrew’s better than ever.

“The church building is for everyone, not just people who worship there each Sunday.”

The congregation is hoping that the repairs and improvement work will be completed by the autumn and in the meantime is continuing to meet for 11am Sunday services at St Andrew’s Primary School and other churches in the area.

A Gift Day is planned for Sunday, February 16 for church members to make donations, kick-starting the fundraising.