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King's Lynn's biggest church gets hi-tech thanks to Freebridge grant


King’s Lynn’s biggest church will be connecting with local people in a different way thanks to a grant from the Freebridge Community Fund.

King’s Lynn Minster, on the Saturday Market Place, will use the grant to install wi-fi throughout the church, enabling them to live stream services, events and concerts. Clergy at the church have had to adapt how they work in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and up until now have been recording services and posting them online – but their limited set-up has stopped them streaming live.

At the moment they have wi-fi internet in the office but the layout (and thick walls!) of the 900 year old building mean they can’t just install boosters like we would at home. The plan is to install a more hi-tech set-up on a balcony in the west end that will ensure effective coverage across the venue. This then means they’ll be able to broadcast live from throughout the church.

While the Covid-19 response has prompted this new way of connecting with people, it’s hoped that there will be a more wide-ranging impact in embracing this technology.

Father Angela Rayner, the assistant Curate at the Minster, said: “It’ll help make what we do more accessible, not just to those who can’t go out because of the virus but maybe those who can’t go out because of disability or childcare issues.

“There may also be a number of people who have been wary of coming in to a church or religious building so we’ve been thinking about how we can welcome and include them too.”

Broadcasting worship is just the first phase. Conversations with the congregation over the past few months have shown the clergy that many people don’t have access to the internet – whether because of affordability issues or a lack of support to get online.

Fr Angela is particularly keen to help even this out: “Part one is to get us online and get what we are doing ‘out’ and part two is helping others to get online. There’s a massive amount of digital poverty in this area and we wanted to say ‘how can we be a place that can be hospitable?’ and one way is to be somewhere that helps people get online.”

As with many organisations, the Minster’s fundraising and community events have been hit hard by lockdown and it’s hoped that going virtual may help restore some of that too.

However, finding the money for any of these projects has been hard to come by, particularly after the recent million pound renovations that they’ve completed, as Fr Angela explained: “When you finish a big building project like we’ve done (installing toilets, an office and meeting room) there’s not much left at the end, we’ve gone all out and asked a lot of people for money and this is another project on top that needs funding.

“We are accessing as many funding sources as we can. People are normally really generous when they just come in and visit to have a look round. But we haven’t had that or the income we would normally have through donations at concerts, weekly organ recitals and events.”

It’s hoped that by using the funding from Freebridge to get online and broadcast their message further they may be able to help more than just their usual congregation and that they can offer worship and support to others across the town and borough.

The funding from Freebridge’s Community Fund is part of a number of grants provided to West Norfolk charities and community groups by the housing association. Thirteen projects across the area have benefitted this year, with each being awarded amounts up to £1000. This year Freebridge raised the amount available to the fund to £10,000, double the £5000 that is normally offered, to mark the fact that they've been providing this money to groups for a decade.

We'll be taking a closer look at each of the grant recipients as part of #FreebridgeFundFriday each week.