THE leader of Methodists in the United Kingdom has visited Basingstoke to see how plans for a major new church are shaping up.

St Andrew’s Methodist Church has struck a deal to demolish its existing home in Western Way, South Ham.

In return for a new church, it will hand over some of the land to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to enable the creation of a new health centre.

The Reverend Margaret Locke-Wheaton, superintendent Methodist minister for Basingstoke, said the visit by the President of the Methodist Conference, Rev Stephen Poxon, was a valuable experience for him and members of St Andrew’s Church.

“He shared with us ideas of what churches were doing around the country and that generated some ideas for ourselves,” she said. “He was saying we are going in the right direction.

“Lots of churches in the country are finding new ways to engage with their communities and that’s what this project is about.” Among the ideas now being discussed at St Andrew’s are a lunch club, prayer requests and enabling those visiting the surgery to drop into the church.

The borough council has found £3.2million to fund the new church and medical centre that it will lease to Dr Hudson and Partners. The practice will shut its two existing surgeries in Paddock Road, South Ham, and Morehams Avenue, Hatch Warren.

Sharma, Laljee and Associates’ dental practice will also move from its current Paddock Road base into the purpose-built health centre.

Around 60 people – including patient representatives, members of the medical practice, councillors and churchgoers – turned out for the visit of Rev Poxon, who explained how community engagement elsewhere had help renew and revitalise churches.