Church braced for repair bill

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REPAIRS to the fire-damaged St Norbert’s Roman Catholic Church will cost tens of thousands of pounds.

It’s likely to be Easter or even later before the church is returned to its former glory but Christmas services are going ahead as planned.

Parish priest Father Jim Burke revealed costs at the Spalding church have spiralled as more and more damage has been discovered – including the melting of part of the underfloor heating system.

He hopes the repair bill will cost less than £100,000 but the extent of the work is still being assessed.

The fire was discovered shortly before 8am mass on Tuesday, November 30 – the only day an early morning service is held.

Parishioners arriving at church discovered fire doors had sealed.

Firemen found a ‘smouldering’ fire with no flames in the main part of the church, close to the lobby.

A statue of The virgin Mary, recovered from the old St Norbert’s Church on the site, was destroyed and there was severe fire damage to a wooden screen.

Stained glass recovered from the old church was also smoke damaged.

Father Jim said: “All of the fittings in the church and all of the furnishings in the church have basically got to be cleaned.

“There is not one square inch of the church that has not been affected.”

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue said the cause of the fire was a candle left unattended.

Father Jim said he accepts a candle may have been smouldering – but he checked the church at 9pm the day before and there was no naked flame visible.

Soon after the fire, the neighbouring Methodist church in St Thomas’s Road opened its doors to the Catholic congregation and some services were held in St Norbert’s Church Hall.

Father Jim said mass will be celebrated at St Norbert’s four times at Christmas and chairs will be brought in so the church can seat at least 300 people.

St Norbert’s has a 1,300-strong congregation.

Some parishioners have offered donations for the restoration but Father Jim said insurance cover will meet most of the cost. A team of cleaners moved in last Wednesday and the work is ongoing.

Father Jim said more and more damage is being discovered as the work progresses, such as cracks in statues or statues that need repainting.

But the church is getting back on its feet.

Father Jim said: “One thing I want to emphasise is that we are open for business at Christmas.”

Thoughts are already going towards the other great Christian festival, Easter, because that’s when life is likely to return to normal.