Priest Idol church opens new hall

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PARISHONERS will celebrate the opening of a brand new church hall with a carol service this weekend, almost three years after a devastating fire.

St Mary Magdalene, in Lundwood, Barnsley, saw a huge upturn in its fortunes in 2005 after it took part in Channel 4’s reality television show Priest Idol.

The programme followed young American minister James McCaskill, who managed to increase his congregation but then suffered a devastating blow when his church hall was burnt down.

The fire was caused during an operation to replace the building’s felt roof, and insurers estimated that it would cost £300,000 to rebuild the hall.

Since than Father McCaskill has returned to his native America and was replaced by Rev Kevin Maddy, who will preside over Saturday’s celebration.

The new vicar joined the church last year from Japan where he was the regional chaplain to the Hong Kong Mission to Seafarers, and has seen the demolition of the remains of the old hall and the new building replace it.

The carol service, which will be followed by a fund raising Christmas Draw, will take place from 4pm.