By Evan Elpuss
Religious Affairs Editor
A 14th-century church which closed because of congestion from two new supermarkets is now going to attract “worshoppers” by conducting services in Tesco.
Saxmundham used to have a thriving high street until the town was bypassed – then Tesco and Waitrose set up opposite one another on the small winding road which once lead to Leiston and the St John the Baptist church.
Chaos ensued when new residents of the massively over-developed town attempted to visit the shops, causing gridlock which backed up to the rarely-changing traffic lights in the high street.
Local parishioners of St John the Baptist could no longer access their place of worship due to congestion on Church Hill – but have now been invited into a temporary pop-up church in Tesco for Sunday morning service.
Local vicar the Reverend Neil Cushion said: “Well, in a very real sense we are now all living in the modern world and must find communion with the Lord wherever we can.
“The high ceilings and basic arrangement of aisles within a supermarket will be familiar with church goers, so the micro-church in aisle three of Tesco has been well received as it reminds us of the Holy Trinity and takes account of falling congregations. With 24-hour supermarket shopping, seven days a week, time is a precious commodity for many of our parishioners.
“Now we can have ham with our hymns and salami with our psalms.”
Worried Waitrose bosses are now looking at the possibility of their own United Reformed chapel in a bid to secure their share of so-called “worshoppers”. They will offer free hot cross buns and have identified a suitable area in the tea and coffee aisle.
In an ironic twist, the owner of the church, Lord’s Estates Inc., is in advanced talks with Sainsbury’s about possibly demolishing the building and replacing it with a third supermarket.
An insider on the Suffolk Coastal District Council planning committee said: “In the 21st century we expect Saxmundham to become a supermarket hub for East Suffolk – and we can’t let an old building that is only used once a week stand in the way of progress.”
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