A very solid foundation!

Opening address: Patron Pam Rhodes gives a speech

Opening address: Patron Pam Rhodes gives a speech

The foundation stone has been laid at Lancashire’s first education centre to train the next generation of religious leaders.

Television presenter Pam Rhodes laid the stone at Much Hoole Burial Ground, in what organisers described as a “fabulous” occasion.

Funeral director Geoff Whalley, the man behind multi-faith God’s Acre Chapel at the ground, successfully applied for an extension to the building to form a classroom.

Now young people can enrol in 10-week courses, with the view of progressing into religious leadership.

Mr Whalley said: “I just felt that, because some churches, chapels, Catholic churches are closing because they can’t get priests or ministers or vicars, we thought we would bring a business angle into it.

“We would hope to get six to 10 students to do 10-week courses and then the best ones would be guided into the right channels, and hopefully we would get two that may seek further advancement of going into the ministry or mission.”

Mr Whalley said books had been donated to the new venture by the Talbot library at St Walburge’s Church, and said the Church of England had donated new Books of Common Prayer.

He said the stone-laying event was “absolutely fabulous”, and was followed by a Songs of Praise-style service at Much Hoole Methodist Church.

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