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Headcorn residents to vote securing loan to buy disused Methodist church for community centre as Indian church group emerge as late bidder

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Villagers in Headcorn will say yea or nay to plans to purchase a disused Methodist Church for use as a community centre despite an eleventh hour bid coming in from another group.

A meeting in the Village Hall on Wednesday will see Headcorn Parish Council seek approval to apply to the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) for money to buy the old church in the High Street.

Headcorn Methodist Church
Headcorn Methodist Church

The parish is looking to borrow up to £250,000 to finance a bid from The Heart of Headcorn Community Group to buy the church, which dates from 1867 but has stood empty since last year.

The council plans to pay back the money in 10 yearly instalments, but is confident that it can do that from its current income, without the need to increase the precept.

It has to show the PWLB that there is community support for the loan, but because it is not proposing to increase the precept, a simple show of hands is sufficient, otherwise it would have needed to hold an official parish poll.

The news has delighted Bella Mansfield, one of the organisers of Heart of Headcorn, who says that her group has already leafleted nearly all the village, urging voters to turn out to give the proposal a big yes.

If the motion is passed, the parish council could have the loans authorised in as little as two weeks, enabling villagers to put in a bid to the Methodist Church trustees who are looking to off-load the building.

The church interior - before the organ was removed
The church interior - before the organ was removed

The Methodists have twice sought to sell the building at auction, but each time have been frustrated by Heart of Headcorn, who have successfully moved to have the building listed as an asset of community value.

However, in a new twist to the story it transpires there is a second community group looking to purchase the building.

The Mar Thoma Church is a Christian organisation founded in Kerala in India.

It has a growing number of worshippers in England and already has its own churches in London.

But it is interested in buying the Methodist building to give a permanent home to its worshippers in Kent.

The building has long-established links with the Headcorn community
The building has long-established links with the Headcorn community

At present they meet at St Andrew's Church in Maidstone, which they share with the Anglican community.

The church's priest, the Rev Sijo John said: "I can reassure villagers in Headcorn that if we buy the building it will be retained as a church."

He also said when it was not being used for worship, Mar Thoma would "100% welcome" its use by the community for other uses provided they didn't conflict with the church's Christian values.

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