Manna House Christian Centre in Barkingside High Street to reopen

Volunteer Sue Catmur in the fire damaged Christian centre

Volunteer Sue Catmur in the fire damaged Christian centre

First published in News East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Senior reporter

A CHRISTIAN centre gutted by fire after burglars burned their way into a jewellers next door will reopen on Monday.

Manna House in Barkingside High Street was destroyed in a blaze believed to have been started by thieves who set fire to a wooden partition to gain access to the Allan Irving jewellery shop next door.

Five months on, the building has been repaired and refurbished, and volunteers are about to return from their temporary home at the Methodist Church in Fremantle Road.

“It is great to be back on the High Street at the heart of the community,” said volunteer Sue Catmur, 68, of Tomswood Hill.

“We weren’t expecting to be able to return this quickly and there is no doubt in my mind that God has played a part in getting us back so soon. It’s amazing what he does.”

Iron bars have been put up on the back window which the burglars broke in through last summer.

But volunteers are still waiting for insurance money to replace Bibles, cards and other items which they sell to help raise funds for the centre.

Centre manager Charlie Musker, 60, of Gwynne Park Avenue in Woodford Bridge, said the most important thing was to be able to offer a drop-in for anyone who feels they need someone to talk to - no matter what their religion.

“We believe God wants us to be on the High Street and we were always determined to come back," he said.

“We were planning to redecorate before the fire and now we have new carpets and everything looks brand new.

“God does move in mysterious ways, although it has been a rather traumatic way to get a refurb done!”

The jewellers is still boarded up, but Mrs Catmur said the owners would be reopening for business shortly.

“They are lovely people,” she said. “Everyone along here is. The people in the estate agent next door have been taking our post for us and everyone is always asking when we are coming back.”

Mrs Catmur said she bore no ill will to the people who had broken in and set fire to the building.

“I still pray for them and hope they find the love of Christ,” she added.

Police are still investigating the blaze but are yet to make any arrests.

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